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Full text of "Sir Nigel"

Sir Nigel 




YOU ARE LIKE A $TAR UPON MY P A TH 



SIR NIGEL 




BY 



A. Conan Doyle 

Author of "The White Company," "Adventures of Sherlock 
Holmes," etc. 



WITH ILLUSTRATIONS 




TORONTO: 

WILLIAM BRIGGS 

1906 




Copyrighted in the United States. 1 906 by 
McClure. Phillip* & Co. 



at the Department of Agriculture. 



-pi? 



CONTENTS 



PAGE 



I. THE HOUSE OF LORING 3 

II. How THE DEVIL CAME TO WAVERLEY .... 8 

III. THE YELLOW HORSE OF CROOKSBURY . . . . 14 

IV. HOW THE SUMMONER CAME TO THE MANOR- 

HOUSE OF TlLFORD 29 

V. How NIGEL WAS TRIED BY THE ABBOT OF 

WAVERLEY 42 

VI. IN WHICH LADY ERMYNTRUDE OPENS THE IRON 

COFFER 57 

VII. How NIGEL WENT MARKETING TO GUILFORD . 67 

VIII. How THE KING HAWKED ON CROOKSBURY 

HEATH 82 

IX. How NIGEL HELD THE BRIDGE AT TILFORD . 93 

X. How THE KING GREETED HIS SENESCHAL OF 

CALAIS 102 

XI. IN THE HALL OF THE KNIGHT OF DUPLIN . .113 

XII. How NIGEL FOUGHT THE TWISTED MAN OF 

SHALFORD 125 

XIII. How THE COMRADES JOURNEYED DOWN THE 

OLD, OLD ROAD 139 



iv Contents 

PAGE 

XIV. How NIGEL CHASED THE RED FERRET . .159 
XV. How THE RED FERRET CAME TO COSFORD . 180 
XVI. How THE KING'S COURT FEASTED IN CALAIS 

CASTLE X 9 

XVII. THE SPANIARDS ON THE SEA . . , .,,' . . 200 
XVIII. How BLACK SIMON CLAIMED FORFEIT FROM 

THE KING OF SARK 220 

XIX. How A SQUIRE OF ENGLAND MET A SQUIRE 

OF FRANCE 230 

XX. How THE ENGLISH ATTEMPTED THE CASTLE 

OF LA BROHINIERE 248 

XXI. How THE SECOND MESSENGER WENT TO COS- 
FORD k ,v . > . . . 260 

XXII. How ROBERT OF BEAUMANOIR CAML TO FLO- 

ERMEL >, * . , . . 276 

XXIII. How THIRTY OF JOSSELIN ENCOUNTERED THIR- 

TY OF FLOERMEL 285 

XXIV. How NIGEL WAS CALLED TO HIS MASTER . 300 

XXV. How THE KING OF FRANCE HELD COUNSEL 

AT MAUPERTUIS 313 

XXVI. How NIGEL FOUND HIS THIRD DEED . . 322 

XXVII. How THE THIRD MESSENGER CAME TO COS- 
FORD 34,1 



INTRODUCTION 



DAME HISTORY is so austere a lady that if one 
has been so ill-advised as to take a liberty with 
her, one should hasten to make amends by repent- 
ance and confession. Events have been transposed to the 
extent of some few months in this narrative in order to 
preserve the continuity and evenness of the story. I hope 
so small a divergence may seem a venial error after so 
many centuries. For the rest, it is as accurate as a good 
deal of research and hard work could make it. 

The matter of diction is always a question of taste and 
discretion in a historical reproduction. In the year 1350 
the upper classes still spoke Norman-French, though they 
were just beginning to condescend to English. The lower 
classes spoke the English of the original Piers Plowman 
text, which would be considerably more obscure than 
their superiors' French if the two were now reproduced 
or imitated. The most which the chronicles can do is to 
catch the cadence and style of their talk, and to infuse 
here and there such a dash of the archaic as may indicate 
their fashion of speech. 

I am aware that there are incidents which may strike 
the modern reader as brutal and repellent. It is useless, 
however, to draw the Twentieth Century and label it the 
Fourteenth. It was a sterner age, and men's code of 
morality, especially in matters of cruelty, was very dif- 
ferent. There is no incident in the text for which very 
good warrant may not be given. The fantastic graces of 
Chivalry lay upon the surface of life, but beneath it was 
a half-savage population, fierce and animal, with little 
ruth o: mercy. It was a raw, rude England, full of ele- 

vii 



viii Introduction 

mental passions, and redeemed only by elemental virtues. 
Such I have tried to draw it. 

For good or bad, many books have gone to the building 
of this one. I look round my study table and I survey 
those which lie with me at the moment, before I happily 
disperse them forever. I see La Croix's " Middle Ages," 
Oman's " Art of War," Rietstap's " Armorial General," 
De la Borderie's " Histoire de Bretagne," Dame Berner's 
"Boke of St. Albans," "The Chronicle of Jocelyn of 
Brokeland," "The Old Road," Hewitt's "Ancient 
Armour," Coussan's "Heraldry," Boutell's "Arms," 
Browne's " Chaucer's England," Cust's " Scenes of the 
Middle Ages,"Jusserand's "Wayfaring Life," Ward's 
" Canterbury Pilgrims," Cornish's " Chivalry," Has- 
tings' " British Archer," Strutt's " Sports," Johnes Frois- 
sart, Hargrove's " Archery," Longman's " Edward III," 
Wright's "Domestic Manners." With these and many 
others I have lived for months. If I have been unable to 
combine and transfer their effect, the fault is mine. 

ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE. 

" UNDERSHAW," November 30, 1905. 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



FACING 
PAGE 



You are like a star upon my path .... Frontispiece 

Hasten, hasten, I pray you !..... 72 

That very suit for which he had yearned 114 

But, Holy Virgin, what have we here ? 228 

Horse and man chafing with impatience 240 

c\ 

All weary, all wounded, and all with burning hearts . .298 



I 

THE HOUSE OF LORING 

IN the month of July of the year 1348, between the 
feasts of St. Benedict and of St. Swithin, a strange 
thing came upon England, for out of the east there 
drifted a monstrous cloud, purple and piled, heavy with 
evil, climbing slowly up the hushed heaven. In the shadow 
of that strange cloud the leaves drooped in the trees, the 
birds ceased their calling, and the cattle and the sheep gath- 
ered cowering under the hedges. A gloom fell upon all the 
land, and men stood with their eyes upon the strange cloud 
and a heaviness upon their hearts. They crept into the 
churches where the trembling people were blessed and 
shriven by the trembling prjests. Outside no bird flew, and 
there came no rustling from the woods, nor any of the 
homely sounds of Nature. All was still, and nothing moved, 
save only the great cloud which rolled up and onward, with 
fold on fold from the black horizon. To the west was the 
light summer sky, to the east this brooding cloud-bank, 
creeping ever slowly across, until the last thin blue gleam 
faded away and the whole vast sweep of the heavens was 
one great leaden arch. 

Then the rain began to fall. All day it rained, and all 
the night and all the week and all the month, until folk 
had forgotten the blue heavens and the gleam of the sun- 
shine. It was not heavy, but it was steady and cold and 
unceasing, so that the people were weary of its hissing and 
its splashing, with the slow drip from the eaves. Always the 
same thick evil cloud flowed from east to west with the rain 
beneath it. None could see for more than a bow-shot from 
their dwellings for the drifting veil of the rain-storms. 
Every morning the folk looked upward for a break, but 
their eyes rested always upon the same endless cloud, until 
'at last they ceased to look up, and their hearts despaired 

3 



4 Sir Nigel 

of ever seeing the change. It was raining at Lammas-tide 
and raining at the Feast of the Assumption and still raining 
at Michaelmas. The crops and the hay, sodden and black, 
had rotted in the fields, for they were not worth the garner- 
ing. The sheep had died, and the calves also, so there was 
little to kill when Martinmas came and it was time to salt 
the meat for the winter. They feared a famine, but it was 
worse than famine which was in store for them. 

For the rain had ceased at last, and a sickly autumn sun 
shone upon a land which was soaked and sodden with water. 
Wet and rotten leaves reeked and festered under the foul 
haze which rose from the woods. The fields were spotted 
with monstrous fungi of a size and color never matched be- 
fore scarlet and mauve and liver and black. It was as 
though the sick earth had burst into foul pustules ; mildew 
and lichen mottled the walls, and with that filthy crop Death 
sprang also from the water-soaked earth. Men died, and 
women and children, the baron of the castle, the franklin 
on the farm, the monk in the abbey and the villein in his 
wattle-and-daub cottage. All breathed the same polluted 
reek and all died the same death of corruption. Of those 
who were stricken none recovered, and the illness was ever 
the same gross boils, raving, and the black blotches which 
gave its name to the disease. All through the winter the 
dead rotted by the wayside for want of some one to bury 
them. In many a village no single man was left alive. 
Then at last the spring came with sunshine and health and 
lightness and laughter the greenest, sweetest, tenderest 
spring that England had ever known but only half of Eng- 
land could know it. The other half had passed away with 
the great purple cloud. 

Yet it was there in that stream of death, in that reek of 
corruption, that the brighter and freer England was born. 
There in that dark hour the first streak of the new dawn 
was seen. For in no way save by a great upheaval and 
change could the nation break away from that iron feudal 
system which held her limbs. But now it was a new coun- 
try which came out from that year of death. The barons 
were dead in swaths. No high turret nor cunning moat 
could keep out that black commoner who struck them down. 



The House of Loring 5 

Oppressive laws slackened for want of those who could 
enforce them, and once slackened could never be enforced 
again. The laborer would be a slave no longer. The 
bondsman snapped his shackles. There was much to do 
and few left to do it. Therefore the few should be free men, 
name their own price, and work where and for whom they 
would. It was the black death which cleared the way for 
that great rising thirty years later which left the English 
peasant the freest of his class in Europe. 

But there were few so far-sighted that they could see that 
here, as ever, good was coming out of evil. At the moment 
misery and ruin were brought into every family. The dead 
cattle, the ungarnered crops, the untilled lands every spring 
of wealth had dried up at the same moment. Those who 
were rich became poor; but those who were poor already, 
and especially those who were poor with the burden of 
gentility upon their shoulders, found themselves in a perilous 
state. All through England the smaller gentry were ruined, 
for they had no trade save war, and they drew their living 
from the work of others. On many a manor-house there 
came evil times, and on none more than on the Manor of 
Tilford, where for many generations the noble family of 
the Lorings had held their home. 

There was a time when the Lorings had held the country 
from the North Downs to the Lakes of Frensham, and when 
their grim castle-keep rising above the green meadows which 
border the River Wey had been the strongest fortalice be- 
twixt Guildford Castle in the east and Winchester in the 
west. But there came that Barons' War, in which the 
King used his Saxon subjects as a whip with which to 
scourge his Norman barons, and Castle Loring, like so 
many other great strongholds, was swept from the face of 
the land. From that time the Lorings, with estates sadly 
curtailed, lived in what had been the dower-house, with 
enough for splendor. 

And then came their lawsuit with Waverley Abbey, and 
the Cistercians laid claim to their richest land, with pec- 
cary, turbary and feudal rights over the remainder. It 
lingered on for years, this great lawsuit, and when it was 
finished the men of the Church and the men of the Law had 



6 Sir Nigel 

divided all that was richest of the estate between them. 
There was still left the old manor-house from which with 
each generation there came a soldier to uphold the credit 
of the name and to show the five scarlet roses on the sHver 
shield where it had always been shown in the van. \ There 
were twelve bronzes in the little chapel where Mathew the 
priest said mass every morning, all of men of the house of 
Loring. Two lay with their legs crossed, as being from the 
Crusades. Six others rested their feet upon lions, as hav- 
ing died in war. Four only lay with the effigy of their 
hounds to show that they had passed in peace. | 

Of this famous but impoverished family veroubly impov- 
erished by law and by pestilence, two members were living 
in the year of grace 1349 Lady Ermyntrude Loring and 
her grandson Nigel. Lady Ermyntrude's husband had 
fallen before the Scottish spearsmen at Stirling, and her 
son Eustace, Nigel's father, had found a glorious death nine 
years before this chronicle opens upon the poop of a Norman 
galley at the sea-fight of Sluys. The lonely old woman, 
fierce and brooding like the falcon mewed in her chamber, 
was soft only toward the lad whom she had brought up. 
All the tenderness and love of her nature, so hidden from 
others that they could not imagine their existence, were lav- 
ished upon him. She could not bear him away from her, 
and he, with that respect for authority which the age de- 
manded, would not go without her blessing and consent. 

So it came about that Nigel, with his lion heart and with 
the blood of a hundred soldiers thrilling in his veins, still 
at the age of two and twenty, wasted the weary days reclaim- 
ing his hawks with leash and lure or training the alans and 
spaniels who shared with the family the big earthen-floored 
hall of the manor-house. 

Day by day the aged Lady Ermyntrude had seen him 
wax in strength and in manhood, small of stature, it is true, 
but with muscles of steel and a soul of fire. From all parts, 
from the warden of Guildford Castle, from the tilt-yard of 
Fantfiam, tales of his prowess were brought back to her, 
of his daring as a rider, of his debonair courage, of his skill 
with all weapons ; but still she, who had both husband and 
son torn from her by a bloody death, could not bear that 



The House of Loring 7 

this, the last of the Lorings, the final bud of so famous an 
old tree, should share the same fate. With a weary heart, 
but with a smiling face, he bore with his uneventful days, 
while she would ever put off the evil time until the harvest 
was better, until the monks of Waverley should give up 
what they had taken, until his uncle should die and leave 
money for his outfit, or any other excuse with which she 
could hold him to her side. 

And indeed, there was need for a man at Tilford, for the 
strife betwixt the Abbey and the manor-house had never 
been appeased, and still on one pretext or another the monks 
would clip off yet one more slice of their neighbor's land. 
Over the winding river, across the green meadows, rose the 
short square tower and the high gray walls of the grim 
Abbey, with its bell tolling by day and night, a voice of 
menace and of dread to the little household. 

It is in the heart of the great Cistercian monastery that 
this chronicle of old days must take its start, as we trace 
the feud betwixt the monks and the house of Loring, with 
those events to which it gave birth, ending with the coming 
of Chandos, the strange spear-running of Tilford Bridge 
and the deeds with which Nigel won fame in the wars. 
Elsewhere, in the chronicle of the White Company, it has 
been set forth what manner of man was Nigel Loring. 
Those who love him may read herein those things which 
went to his making. Let us go back together and gaze upon 
this green stage of England, the scenery, hill, plain and river 
even as now, the actors in much our very selves, in much 
also so changed in thought and act that they might be dwell- 
ers in another world to ours. 



II 

HOW THE DEVIL CAME TO WAVERLEY 

THE day was the first of May, which was the Fes- 
tival of the Blessed Apostles Philip and James. 
The year was the i, 349th from man's salvation. 
From tierce to sext, and then again from sext to nones, 
Abbot John of the House of Waverley had been seated in 
his study while he conducted the many high duties of his 
office. All around for many a mile on every side stretched 
the fertile and flourishing estate of which he was the master. 
In the center lay the broad Abbey buildings, with church 
and cloisters, hospitium, chapter-house and frater-house, all 
buzzing with a busy life. Through the open window came 
the low hum of the voices of the brethren as they walked 
in pious converse in the ambulatory below. From across 
the cloister there rolled the distant rise and fall of a Gre- 
gorian chant, where the precentor was hard at work upon 
the choir, while down in the chapter-house sounded the stri- 
dent voice of Brother Peter, expounding the rule of Saint 
Bernard to the novices. 

" Abbot John rose to stretch his cramped limbs. He looked 
out at the greensward of the cloister, and at the graceful line 
of open Gothic arches which skirted a covered walk for the 
brethren within. Two and two in their black-and-white 
garb with slow step and heads inclined, they paced round 
and round. Several of the more studious had brought their 
illuminating work from the scriptorium, and sat in the warm 
sunshine with their little platters of pigments and packets 
of gold-leaf before them, their shoulders rounded and their 
faces sunk low over the white sheets of vellum. There too 
was the copper-worker with his burin and graver. Learn- 
ing and art were not traditions with the Cistercians as with 
the parent Order of the Benedictines, and yet the library 

8 

I \ 



The Devil came to Waverley 9 

of Waverley was well filled both with precious books and 
with pious students. 

But the true glory of the Cistercian lay in his outdoor 
work, and so ever and anon there passed through the cloister 
some sun-burned monk, soiled mattock or shovel in hand, 
with his gown looped to his knee, fresh from the fields or 
the garden. The lush green water-meadows speckled with 
the heavy-fleeced sheep, the acres of corn-land reclaimed 
from heather and bracken, the vineyards on the southern 
slope of Crooksbury Hill, the rows of Hankley fish-ponds, 
the Frensham marshes drained and sown with vegetables, 
the spacious pigeon-cotes, all circled the great Abbey round 
with the visible labors of the Order. 

The Abbot's full and florid face shone with a quiet con- 
tent as he looked out at his huge but well-ordered house- 
hold. Like every head of a prosperous Abbey, Abbot John, 
the fourth of the name, was a man of various accomplish- 
ments. Through his own chosen instruments he had to min- 
ister a great estate and to keep order and decorum among 
a large body of men living a celibate life. He was a rigid 
disciplinarian toward all beneath him, a supple diplomatist 
to all above. He held high debate with neighboring abbots 
and lords, with bishops, with papal legates, and even on 
occasion with the King's majesty himself. Many were the 
subjects with which he must be conversant. Questions of 
doctrine, questions of building, points of forestry, of agri- 
culture, of drainage, of feudal law, all came to the Abbot 
for settlement. He held the scales of Justice in all the 
Abbey banlieue which stretched over many a mile of Hamp- 
shire and of Surrey. To the monks his displeasure might 
mean fasting, exile to some sterner community, or even im- 
prisonment in chains. Over the layman also he could hold 
any punishment save only corporeal death, instead of which 
he had in hand the far more dreadful weapon of spiritual 
excommunication. 

Such were the powers of the Abbot, and it is no wonder 
that there were masterful lines in the ruddy features of 
Abbot Jonn, or that the brethren, glancing up, should put 
on an even meeker carriage and more demure expression 
as they saw the watchful face in the window above them. 



io Sir Nigel 

A knock at the door of his studio recalled the Abbot to 
his immediate duties, and he returned to his desk. Already 
he had spoken with his cellarer and prior, almoner, chaplain 
and lector, but now in the tall and gaunt monk who obeyed 
his summons to enter he recognized the most important and 
also the most importunate of his agents, Brother Samuel the 
sacrist, whose office, corresponding to that of the layman's 
bailiff, placed the material interests of the monastery and its 
dealings with the outer world entirely under his control, 
subject only to the check of the Abbot. Brother Samuel 
was a gnarled and stringy old monk whose stern and sharp- 
featured face reflected no light from above but only that 
sordid workaday world toward which it was forever turned. 
A huge book of accounts was tucked under one of his arms, 
while a great bunch of keys hung from the other hand, a 
badge of his office, and also on occasion of impatience a 
weapon of offense, as many a scarred head among rustics 
and lay brothers could testify. 

The Abbot sighed wearily, for he suffered much at the 
hands of his strenuous agent. " Well, Brother Samuel, 
what is your will ? " he asked. 

" Holy father, I have to report that I have sold the wool 
to Master Baldwin of Winchester at two shillings a bale 
more than it fetched last year, for the murrain among the 
sheep has raised the price." 

" You have done well, brother." 

" I have also to tell you that I have distrained Wat the 
warrener from his cottage, for his Christmas rent is still 
unpaid, nor the hen-rents of last year." 

He has a wife and four children, brother." He was a 
good, easy man, the Abbot, though liable to be overborne 
by his sterner subordinate. 

"It is true, holy father; but if I should pass him, then 
how am I to ask the rent of the foresters of Puttenham, or 
the hinds in the village ? Such a thing spreads from house 
to house, and where then is the wealth of Waverley? " 

" What else, Brother Samuel? " 

" There is the matter of the fish-ponds." 

The Abbot's face brightened. It was a subject upon 
which he was an authority. If the rule of his Order had 



The Devil came to Waverley n 

robbed him of the softer joys of life, he had the keener 
zest for those which remained. 

" How have the char prospered, brother ? " 

" They have done well, holy father, but the carp have 
died in the Abbot's pond." 

" Carp prosper only upon a gravel bottom. They must 
be put in also in their due proportion, three milters to one 
spawner, brother sacrist, and the spot must be free from 
wind, stony and sandy, an ell deep, with willows and grass 
upon the banks. Mud for tench, brother, gravel for carp." 

The sacrist leaned forward with the face of one who bears 
tidings of woe. " There are pike in the Abbot's pond," 
said he. 

" Pike ! " cried the Abbot in horror. " As well shut up 
a wolf in our sheepfold. How came a pike in the pond? 
There were no pike last year, and a pike does not fall with 
the rain nor rise in the springs. The pond must be drained, 
or we shall spend next Lent upon stockfish, and have the 
brethren down with the great sickness ere Easter Sunday 
has come to absolve us from our abstinence." 

" The pond shall be drained, holy father ; I have already 
ordered it. Then we shall plant pot-herbs on the mud 
bottom, and after we have gathered them in, return the 
fish and water once more from the lower pond, so that they 
may fatten among the rich stubble." 

" Good ! " cried the Abbot. " I would have three fish- 
stews in every well-ordered house one dry for herbs, one 
shallow for the fry and the yearlings, and one deep for the 
breeders and the table-fish. But still, I have not heard you 
say how the pike came in the Abbot's pond." 

A spasm of anger passed over the fierce face of the sacrist, 
and his keys rattled as his bony hand clasped them more 
tightly. " Young Nigel Loring ! " said he. " He swore 
that he would do us scathe, and in this way he has done it." 

" How know you this ? " 

" Six weeks ago he was seen day by day fishing for pike 
at the great Lake of Frensham. Twice at night he has 
been met with a bundle of straw under his arm on the 
Hankley Down. Well, I wot that the straw was wet and 
that a live pike lay within it." 



12 Sir Nigel 

The Abbot shook his head. " I have heard much of this 
youth's wild ways ; but now indeed he has passed all bounds 
if what you say be truth. It was bad enough when it was 
said that he slew the King's deer in Woolmer Chase, or 
broke the head of Hobbs the chapman, so that he lay for 
seven days betwixt life and death in our infirmary, saved 
only by Brother Peter's skill in the pharmacies of herbs; 
but to put pike in the Abbot's pond why should he play 
such a devil's prank ? " 

" Because he hates the House of Waverley, holy father ; 
because he swears that we hold his father's land." 

" In which there is surely some truth." 

" But, holy father, we hold no more than the law has 
allowed." 

" True, brother, and yet between ourselves, we may admit 
that the heavier purse may weigh down the scales of Justice. 
When I have passed the old house and have seen that aged 
woman with her ruddled cheeks and her baleful eyes look 
the curses she dare not speak, I have many a time wished 
that we had other neighbors." 

" That we can soon bring about, holy father. Indeed, it 
is of it that I wished to speak to you. Surely it is not hard 
for us to drive them from the country-side. There are 
thirty years' claims of escuage unsettled, and there is Ser- 
geant Wilkins, the lawyer of Guildf ord, whom I will warrant 
to draw up such arrears of dues and rents and issues of 
hidage and fodder-corn that these folk, who are as beggarly 
as they are proud, will have to sell the roof-tree over them 
ere they can meet them. Within three days I will have 
them at our mercy." 

!< They are an ancient family and of good repute. I 
would not treat them too harshly, brother." 

" Bethink you of the pike in the carp pond ! " 

The Abbot hardened his heart at the thought. " It was 
indeed a devil's deed when we had but newly stocked it 
with char and with carp. Well, well, the law is the law, 
and if you can use it to hurt, it is still lawful to do so. 
Have these claims been advanced? " 

" Deacon the bailiff with his two varlets went down to 
the Hall yesternight on the matter of the escuage, and came 



The Devil came to Waverley 1 3 

screaming back with this young hothead raging at their 
heels. He is small and slight, yet he has the strength of 
many men in the hour of his wrath. The bailiff swears 
that he will go no more, save with half a score of archers 
to uphold him." 

The Abbot was red with anger at this new offense. " I 
will teach him that the servants of Holy Church, even though 
we of the rule of Saint Bernard be the lowliest and hum- 
blest of her children, can still defend their own against the 
froward and the violent! Go, cite this man before the 
Abbey court. Let him appear in the chapter-house after 
tierce to-morrow." 

But the wary sacrist shook his head. " Nay, holy father, 
the times are not yet ripe. Give me three days, I pray you, 
that my case against him may be complete. Bear in mind 
that the father and the grandfather of this unruly squire 
were both famous men of their day and the foremost knights 
in the King's own service, living in high honor and dying 
in their knightly duty. The Lady Ermyntrude Loring was 
first lady to the King's mother. Roger FitzAlan of Farn- 
ham and Sir Hugh Walcott of Guildford Castle were each 
old comrades-in-arms of Nigel's father, and sib to him on 
the distaff side. Already there has been talk that we have 
dealt harshly with them. Therefore, my rede is that we be 
wise and wary and wait until his cup be indeed full." 

The Abbot had opened his mouth to reply, when the con- 
sultation was interrupted by a most unwonted buzz of ex- 
citement from among the monks in the cloister below. 
Questions and answers in excited voices sounded from one 
side of the ambulatory to the other. Sacrist and Abbot 
were gazing at each other in amazement at such a breach 
of the discipline and decorum of their well-trained flock, 
when there came a swift step upon the stair, and a white- 
faced brother flung open the door and rushed into the room. 

" Father Abbot ! " he cried. " Alas, alas ! Brother John 
is dead, and the holy subprior is dead, and the Devil is loose 
in the five-virgate field ! " 



Ill 

THE YELLOW HORSE OF CROOKSBURY 

IN those simple times there was a great wonder and 
mystery in life. Man walked in fear and solemnity, 
with Heaven very close above his head, and Hell 
below his very feet. God's visible hand was everywhere, 
in the rainbow and the comet, in the thunder and the wind. 
The Devil too raged openly upon the earth ; he skulked be- 
hind the hedge-rows in the gloaming; he laughed loudly 
in the night-time ; he clawed the dying sinner, pounced on 
the unbaptized babe, and twisted the limbs of the epileptic. 
A foul fiend slunk ever by a man's side and whispered vil- 
lainies in his ear, while above him there hovered an angel 
of grace who pointed to the steep and narrow track. How 
could one doubt these things, when Pope and priest and 
scholar and King were all united in believing them, with 
no single voice of question in the whole wide world ? 

Every book read, every picture seen, every tale heard 
from nurse or mother, all taught the same lesson. And as 
a man traveled through the world his faith would grow the 
firmer, for go where he would there were the endless shrines 
of the saints, each with its holy relic in the center, and 
around it the tradition of incessant miracles, with stacks 
of deserted crutches and silver votive hearts to prove them. 
At every turn he was made to feel how thin was the veil, 
and how easily rent, which screened him from the awful 
denizens of the unseen world. 

Hence the wild announcement of the frightened monk 
seemed terrible rather than incredible to those whom he ad- 
dressed. The Abbot's ruddy face paled for a moment, it 
is true, but he plucked the crucifix from his desk and rose 
valiantly to his feet. 

" Lead me to him! " said he. " Show me the foul fiend 
who dares to lay his grip upon brethren of the holy house 

14 



The Yellow Horse 15 

of Saint Bernard! Run down to my chaplain, brother! 
Bid him bring the exorcist with him, and also the blessed 
box of relics, and the bones of Saint James from under the 
altar ! With these and a contrite and humble heart we may 
show front to all the powers of darkness." 

But the sacrist was of a more critical turn of mind. He 
clutched the monk's arm with a grip which left its five pur- 
ple spots for many a day to come. 

" Is this the way to enter the Abbot's own chamber, with- 
out knock or reverence, or so much as a ' Pax vobiscum ' ? " 
said he sternly. " You were wont to be our gentlest novice, 
of lowly carriage in chapter, devout in psalmody and strict 
in the cloister. Pull your wits together and answer me 
straightly. In what form has the foul fiend appeared, and 
how has he done this grievous scathe to our brethren? 
Have you seen him with your own eyes, or do you repeat 
from hearsay? Speak, man, or you stand on the penance- 
stool in the chapter-house this very hour ! " 

Thus adjured, the frightened monk grew calmer in his 
bearing, though his white lips and his startled eyes, with 
the gasping of his breath, told of his inward tremors. 

"If it please you, holy father, and you, reverend sacrist, 
it came about in this way. James the subprior, and Brother 
John and I had spent our day from sext onward on Hank- 
ley, cutting bracken for the cow-houses. We were coming 
back over the five-virgate field, and the holy subprior was 
telling us a saintly tale from the life of Saint Gregory, 
when there came a sudden sound like a rushing torrent, and 
the foul fiend sprang over the high wall which skirts the 
water-meadow and rushed upon us with the speed of the 
wind. The lay brother he struck to the ground and tram- 
pled into the mire. Then, seizing the good subprior in his 
teeth, he rushed round the field, swinging him as though 
he were a fardel of old clothes. 

" Amazed at such a sight, I stood without movement and 
had said a credo and three aves, when the Devil dropped 
the subprior and sprang upon me. With the help of Saint 
Bernard I clambered over the wall, but not before his teeth 
had found my leg, and he had torn away the whole back 
skirt of my gown." As he spoke he turned and gave cor- 



1 6 Sir Nigel 

roboration to his story by the hanging ruins of his long 
trailing garment. 

" In what shape then did Satan appear ? " the Abbot 
demanded. 

" As a great yellow horse, holy father a monster horse, 
with eyes of fire and the teeth of a griffin/' 

" A yellow horse ! " The sacrist glared at the scared 
monk. " You foolish brother ! how will you behave when 
you have indeed to face the King of Terrors himself if you 
can be so frightened by the sight of a yellow horse? It is 
the horse Of Franklin Aylward, my father, which has been 
distrained by us because he owes the Abbey fifty good shil- 
lings and can never hope to pay it. Such a horse, they say, 
is not to be found betwixt this and the King's stables at 
Windsor, for his sire was a Spanish destrer, and his dam 
an Arab mare of the very breed which Saladin, whose soul 
now reeks in Hell, kept for his own use, and even it has 
been said under the shelter of his own tent. I took him 
in discharge of the debt, and I ordered the varlets who 
had haltered him to leave him alone in the water-meadow, 
for I have heard that the beast has indeed a most evil spirit, 
and has killed more men than one." 

" It was an ill day for Waverley that you brought such 
a monster within its bounds," said the Abbot. " If the 
subprior and Brother John be indeed dead, then it would 
seem that if the horse be not the Devil he is at least the 
Devil's instrument." 

" Horse or Devil, holy father, I heard him shout with joy 
as he trampled upon Brother John, and had you seen him 
tossing the subprior as a dog shakes a rat you would per- 
chance have felt even as I did." 

" Come then," cried the Abbot, " let us see with our own 
eyes what evil has been done." 

And the three monks hurried down the stair which led 
to the cloisters. 

They had no sooner descended than their more pressing 
fears were set at rest, for at that very moment, limping, 
disheveled and mud-stained, the two sufferers were being 
led in amid a crowd of sympathizing brethren. Shouts and 
cries from outside showed, however, that some further 



The Yellow Horse 17 

drama was in progress, and both Abbot and sacrist hastened 
onward as fast as the dignity of their office would permit, 
until they had passed the gates and gained the wall of the 
meadow. Looking over it, a remarkable sight presented 
itself to their eyes. 

Fetlock deep in the lush grass there stood a magnifi- 
cent horse, such a horse as a sculptor or a soldier might 
thrill to see. His color was a light chestnut, with mane 
and tail of a more tawny tint. Seventeen hands high, with 
a, barrel and haunches which bespoke tremendous strength, 
he fined down to the most delicate lines of dainty breed in 
neck and crest and shoulder. He was indeed a glorious 
sight as he stood there, his beautiful body leaning back from 
his wide-spread and propped fore legs, his head craned high, 
his ears erect, his mane bristling, his red nostrils opening 
and shutting with wrath, and his flashing eyes turning from 
side to side in haughty menace and defiance. 

Scattered round in a respectful circle, six of the Abbey 
lay servants and foresters, each holding a halter, were creep- 
ing toward him. Every now and then, with a beautiful toss 
and swerve and plunge, the great creature would turn upon 
one of his would-be captors, and with outstretched head, 
flying mane and flashing teeth, would chase him scream- 
ing to the safety of the wall, while the others would close 
swiftly in behind and cast their ropes in the hope of catch- 
ing neck or leg, but only in their turn to be chased to the 
nearest refuge. 

Had two of these ropes settled upon the horse, and had 
their throwers found some purchase of stump or bowlder 
by which they could hold them, then the man's brain might 
have won its wonted victory oyer swiftness and strength. 
But the brains were themselves at fault which imagined 
that one such rope would serve any purpose save to en- 
danger the thrower. 

Yet so it was, and what might have been foreseen oc- 
curred at the very moment of the arrival of the monks. 
The horse, having chased one of his enemies to the wall, 
remained so long snorting his contempt over the coping 
that the others were able to creep upon him from behind. 
Several ropes were flung, and one noose settled over the 



x8 Sir Nigel 

proud crest and lost itself in the waving mane. In an 
instant the creature had turned and the men were flying 
for their lives ; but he who had cast the rope lingered, un- 
certain what use to make of his own success. That mo- 
ment of doubt was fatal. With a yell of dismay, the man 
saw the great creature rear above him. Then with a crash 
the fore feet fell upon him and dashed him to the ground. 
He rose screaming, was hurled over once more, and lay 
a quivering, bleeding heap, while the savage horse, the most 
cruel and terrible in its anger of all creatures on earth, bit 
and shook and trampled the writhing body. 

A loud wail of horror rose from the lines of tonsured 
heads which skirted the high wall a wail which suddenly 
died away into a long hushed silence, broken at last by a 
rapturous cry of thanksgiving and of joy. 

/ On the road which led to the old dark manor-house upon 
( the side of the hill a youth had been riding. His mount 
was a sorry one, a weedy, shambling, long-haired colt, and 
his patched tunic of faded purple with stained leather belt 
presented no very smart appearance; yet in the bearing of 
the man, in the poise of his head, in his easy graceful car- 
riage, and in the bold glance of his large blue eyes, there 
was that stamp of distinction and of breed which would 
have given him a place of his own in any assembly. He 
was of small stature, but his frame was singularly elegant 
and graceful. His face, though tanned with the weather, 
was delicate in features and most eager and alert in e}tpres- 
sion. A thick fringe of crisp yellow curls broke from under 
the dark flat cap which he was wearing, and a short golden 
beard hid the outline of his strong square chin. One white 
osprey feather thrust through a gold brooch in the front 
of his cap gave a touch of grace to his somber garb T This 
and other points of his attire, the short hanging mantle, the 
leather-sheathed hunting-knife, the cross belt which sus- 
tained a brazen horn, the soft doerskin boots and the prick 
spurs, would all disclose themselves to an observer; but at 
the first glance the brown face set in gold and the dancing 
light of the quick, reckless, laughing eyes, were the one 
strong memory left behind. * 



The Yellow Horse 19 

Such was the youth who, cracking his whip joyously , 
and followed by half a score of dogs, cantered on his rude 
pony down the Tilf ord Lane, and thence it was that with 
a smile of amused contempt upon his face he observed the 
comedy in the field and the impotent efforts of the servants 
of Waverley. 

Suddenly, however, as the comedy turned swiftly to black 
tragedy, this passive spectator leaped into quick strenuous 
life. With a spring he was off his pony, and with another 
he was over the stone wall and flying swiftly across the 
field. Looking up from his victim, the great yellow horse 
saw this other enemy approach, and spurning the prostrate, 
but still writhing body with its heels, dashed at the new- 
comer. 

But this time there was no hasty flight, no rapturous pur- 
suit to the wall. The little man braced himself straight, 
flung up his metal-headed whip, and met the horse with 
a crashing blow upon the head, repeated again and again 
with every attack. In vain the horse reared and tried to 
overthrow its enemy with swooping shoulders and pawing 
hoofs. Cool, swift and alert, the man sprang swiftly aside 
from under the very shadow of death, an4 then again came 
the swish and thud qf the unerring blow from the heavy 
handle. 

The horse drew off, glared with wpnder and fury at this 
masterful man, and then trotted round in a circle, with 
mane bristling, tail strearning and ears on end, snorting in 
its rage and pain. The ma??, hardly deigning to glance at 
his fell neighbor, passed on to the wounde4 forester, raised 
him in his arms with a strength which could not have been 
expected in so slight a body, and carried him, groaning, to 
the wall, where a dozen hands were outstretched to help l\im 
over. Then, at his leisure, tjie young man also climbed 
the wall, smiling b^ck with cool contempt at the yellow 
horse, which had come raging after him once more. 

As he sprang down, a dozen mqnks surrounded rjim to 
thank him or to praise him ; but he would have tilrned sul- 
lenly away without a word had he not been stoppe4 t>y 
Abbot John in person. 

" Nay, Squire Loring," said he, f< if you be a bad friend 



2o Sir Nigel 

to our Abbey, yet we must needs own that you have played 
the part of a good Christian this day, for if there is breath 
left in our servant's body it is to you next to our blessed 
patron Saint Bernard that we owe it." 

" By Saint Paul ! I owe you no good-will, Abbot John," 
said the young man. " The shadow of your Abbey has 
ever fallen across the house of Loring. As to any small 
deed that I may have done this day, I ask no thanks for 
it. It is not for you nor for your house that I have done 
it, but only because it was my pleasure so to do." 

The Abbot flushed at the bold words, and bit his lip with 
vexation. 

It was the sacrist, however, who answered : " It would be 
more fitting and more gracious," said he, " if you were to 
speak to the holy Father Abbot in a manner suited to his 
high rank and to the respect which is due to a Prince of 
the Church." 

The youth turned his bold blue eyes upon the monk, and 
his sunburned face darkened with anger. " Were it not 
for the gown upon your back, and for your silvering hair, 
I would answer you in another fashion," said he. " You 
are the lean wolf which growls ever at our door, greedy, 
for the little which hath been left to us. Say and do what 
you will with me, but by Saint Paul! if I find that Dame 
Ermyntrude is baited by your ravenous pack I will beat 
them off with this whip from the little patch which still 
remains of all the acres of my fathers." 

" Have a care, Nigel Loring, have a care ! " cried the 
Abbot, with finger upraised. " Have you no fears of the 
law of England?" 

" A just law I fear and obey." 
'' Have you no respect for Holy Church? " 

" I respect all that is holy in her. I do not respect those 
who grind the poor or steal their neighbor's land." 

" Rash man, many a one has been blighted by her ban 
for less than you have now said ! And yet it is not for us 
to judge you harshly this day. You are young and hot 
words come easily to your lips. How fares the forester? " 

" His hurt is grievous, Father Abbot, but he will live," 
said a brother, looking up from the prostrate form. " With 



The Yellow Horse 21 

a blood-letting and an electuary, I will warrant him sound 
within a month." 

" Then bear him to the hospital. And now, brother, 
about this terrible beast who still gazes and snorts at us 
over the top of the wall as though his thoughts of Holy 
Church were as uncouth as those of Squire Nigel himself, 
what are we to do with him ? " 

" Here is Franklin Aylward," said one of the brethren. 
" The horse was his, and doubtless he will take it back to 
his farm." 

But the stout red-faced farmer shook his head at the 
proposal. " Not I, in faith ! " said he. " The beast hath 
chased me twice round the paddock; it has nigh slain my 
boy Samkin. He would never be happy till he had ridden 
it, nor has he ever been happy since. There is not a hind 
in my employ who will enter his stall. Ill fare the day 
that ever I took the beast from the Castle stud at Guild- 
ford, where they could do nothing with it and no rider could 
be found bold enough to mount it ! When the sacrist here 
took it for a fifty-shilling debt he made his own bargain 
and must abide by it. He comes no more to the Crooks- 
bury farm." 

" And he stays no more here," said the Abbot. " Brother 
sacrist, you have raised the Devil, and it is for you to lay 
it again." 

"That I will most readily," cried the sacrist. "The 
pittance-master can stop the fifty shillings from my very 
own weekly dole, and so the Abbey be none the poorer. In 
the meantime here is Wat with his arbalist and a bolt in 
his girdle. Let him drive it to the head through this cursed 
creature, for his hide and his hoofs are of more value than 
his wicked self." 

A hard brown old woodman who had been shooting ver- 
min in the Abbey groves stepped forward with a grin of 
pleasure. After a lifetime of stoats and foxes, this was 
indeed a noble quarry which was to fall before him. Fit- 
ting a bolt on the nut of his taut crossbow, he had raised 
it to his shoulder and leveled it at the fierce, proud, 
disheveled head which tossed in savage freedom at the 
other side of the wall. His finger was crooked on the spring, 



2 2 Sir Nigel 

when a blow from a whip struck the bow upward and the 
bolt flew harmless over the Abbey orchard, Grille the wodd- 
mart shrank abashed from Nigel Loring's angry eyes. 

" Keep your bolts for your weasels ! " said he. Would 
you take life from a creature* whose only fault is that its 
spirit is so high that it has met none yet who dare control 
it? You would slay such a horse as a king might be proud 
to mbunt, and all because a country frdriklin, of a monk, 
or a mdnk's varlet, has not the wit nor the hands to hiaster 

The sacrist turned swiftly oh the Squire. " The Abbey 
owes you an offering for this day's work, however rude 
your words may be," said he. " If you think so much of 
the horse, you may desire to own it. If I am to pay for 
itj then with the holy Abbot's permission it is in my gift 
and I bestow it freely lipon you." 

The Abbot plucked at his subordinate's sleeve; " Bethink 
you, brother sacrist," he whispered; " shall we hot have this 
man's blood upbn otir heads ? " 

" His pride is as stubborn as the horse's, holy father/' 
the sacrist answered, his gaunt face breaking into a mali- 
cious smile. " Man or beast, one will break the other and 
the world will be the better for it. If you forbid me- " 

" Nay, brother, yoti have bought the horse, and you may 
have the bestowal of it." 

" Then I give it hide and hoofs, tail and temper to 
Nigel Loring, and may it be as sweet and as gentle to him 
as he hath been to the Abbot of Waverley ! " 

The sacrist spoke aloud amid the tittering of the monks> 
for the man concerned was out of earshot. At the first 
words which had shown him the turn which affairs had 
taken he had run swiftly to the spot where he had left his 
pony. From its mouth he removed the bit and the stout 
bridle which held it. Then leaving the creature to nibble 
the grass by the wayside he sped back whence he came. 

" I take your gift, morik," said he, " though I know well 
why it is that you give it. Yet I thank you, for there are two 
things upon earth for which I have ever yearned, and which 
my thin purse could never buy. The one is a rioble horse* 
such a hdfse as toy father's son should have betwixt his 



The Yellow Horse 23 

thighs, and here is the one of all others which I would have 
chosen, since some small deed is to be done in the winning 
of him, and some honorable advancement to be gained. 
How is ttye horse called? " 

" Its name," said the franklin, " is Pommers. I warn 
you, young sir, that none may ride him, for many have tried, 
and the luckiest is he who has only a staved rib to show 
to- it." 

" I thank you for your rede/' said Nigel, " and now I see 
that this is indeed a horse which I would journey far to 
meet. I am your man, Pommers, and you are my horse, 
and this night you shall Own it or I will never need horse 
\again. My spirit against thine, and God hold thy spirit 
high, Pommers, so that the greater be the adventure, and 
the more hope of honor gained ! " 

/""""""While he spoke the young Squire had climbed on to the 
' top of the wall and stood there balanced, the very image 
of grace and spirit and gallantry, his bridle hanging from 
one hand and his whip grasped in the other. With a fierce 
snort, the horse made for him instantly, and his white 
teeth flashed as he snapped ; but again a heavy blow from 
the loaded whip caused him to swerve, and even at the 
instant of the swerve, measuring the distance with steady 
eyes, and bending his supple body for the spring, Nigel 
bounded into the air and fell with his legs astride the broad 
back of the yellow horse. For a minute, with neither sad- 
dle nor stirrups to help him, and the beast ramping and 
rearing like a mad thing beneath him, he was hard pressed 
to hold his own. His legs were like two bands of steel 
welded on to the swelling arches of the great horse's ribs, 
and his left hand was buried deep in the tawny mane, i 

Never had the dull round of the lives of the gentle' breth- 
ren of Waverley been broken by so fiery a scene. Spring- 
ing to right and swoojping to left, now with its tangled 
wicked head betwixt its forefeet, and now pawing eight 
feet high in the air, with scarlet, furious nostrils and mad- 
dened eyes, the yellow horse was a thing of terror and of 
beauty. But the lithe figure on his back, bending like a 
reed in the wind to every movement, firm below, pliant 
above* with calm inexorable face, and eyes which danced 



24 sir 

and gleamed with the joy of contest, still held its masterful 
place for all that the fiery heart and the iron muscles of the 
great beast could do. 

Once a long drone of dismay rose from the monks, as 
rearing higher and higher yet a last mad effort sent the 
creature toppling over backward upon its rider. But, switt 
and cool, he had writhed from under it ere it fell, spurned 
it with his foot as it rolled upon the earth, and then seizing 
its mane as it rose swung himself lightly on to its back 
once more. Even the grim sacrist could not but join the 
cheer, as Pommers, amazed to find the rider still upon his 
back, plunged and curveted down the field. 

But the wild horse only swelled into a greater fury. In 
the sullen gloom of its untamed heart there rose the furious 
resolve to dash the life from this clinging rider, even if it 
meant destruction to beast and man. With red, blazing 
eyes it looked round for death'. On three sides the five- 
virgate field was bounded by a high wall, broken only at 
one spot by a heavy four-foot wooden gate. But on the 
fourth side was a low gray building, one of the granges of 
the Abbey, presenting a long flank unbroken by door or 
window. The horse stretched itself into a gallop, and 
headed straight for that craggy thirty-foot wall. He would 
break in red ruin at the base of it if he could but dash 
forever the life of this man, who claimed mastery over that 
which had never found its master yet. 

The great haunches gathered under it, the eager hoofs 
drummed the grass, as faster and still more fast the frantic 
horse bore himself and his rider toward the wall. Would 
Nigel spring off? To do so would be to bend his will 
to that of the beast beneath him. There was a better way 
than that. Cool, quick and decided, the man swiftly passed 
both whip and bridle into the left hand which still held the 
mane. Then with the right he slipped his short mantle 
from his shoulders, and lying forward along the creature's 
strenuous, rippling back he cast the flapping cloth over the 
horse's eyes. 

The result was but too successful, for it nearly brought 
about the downfall of the rider. When those red eyes 
straining for death were suddenly shrouded in unexpected 



The Yellow Horse 25 

darkness the amazed horse propped on its forefeet and came 
to so dead a stop that Nigel was shot forward on to its 
neck and hardly held himself by his hair-entwined hand. 
Ere he had slid back into position the moment of danger 
had passed, for the horse, its purpose all blurred in its mind 
by this strange thing which had befallen, wheeled round 
once more, trembling in every fiber, and tossing its petulant 
head until at last the mantle had been slipped from its eyes 
and the chilling darkness had melted into the homely circle 
of sunlit grass once more. 

But what was this new outrage which had been inflicted 
upon it? What was this defiling bar of iron which was 
locked hard against its mouth? What were these straps 
which galled the tossing neck, this band which spanned its 
chest ? In those instants of stillness ere the mantle had been 
plucked away Nigel had lain forward, had slipped the snaffle 
between the champing teeth, and had deftly secured it. 

Blind, frantic fury surged in the yellow horse's heart 
once more at this new degradation, this badge of serfdom 
and infamy. His spirit rose high and menacing at the 
touch. He loathed this place, these people, all and every- 
thing which threatened his freedom. He would have done 
with them forever; he would see them no more. Let him 
away to the uttermost parts of the earth, to the great plains 
where freedom is. Anywhere over the far horizon . where 
he could get away from the defiling bit and the insufferable 
mastery of man. 

He turned with a rush, and one magnificent deer-like 
bound carried him over the four-foot gate. Nigel's hat 
had flown off, and his yellow curls streamed behind him as 
he rose and fell in the leap. They were in the water-meadow 
now, and the rippling stream twenty feet wide gleamed in 
front of them running down to the main current of the Wey. 
The yellow horse gathered his haunches under him and 
flew over like an arrow. He took off from behind a bowlder 
and cleared a furze-bush on the farther side. Two stones 
still mark the leap from hoof-mark to hoof-mark, and they 
are eleven good paces apart. Under the hanging branch 
of the great oak-tree on the farther side (that Quercus Til- 
fordiensis is still shown as the bound of the Abby's immedi- 



26 Sir Nigel 

ate precincts) the great horse passed. He had hoped to 
sweep off his rider, but Nigel sank low on the heaving back 
with his face buried in the flying mane. The rough bough 
rasped him rudely, but never shook his spirit nor his grip. 
Rearing* plunging atid struggling, Pommers broke through 
the sapling grove and was out on the broad stretch of 
Hankley Down. 

And now came such a ride as still lingers in the gossip 
of the lowly country folk and forms the rude jingle of that 
old Surrey ballad, now nearly forgotten, save fo'r the 
refrain : 

The Doe that sped on Hinde Head, 

The Keatril on the winde, 
And Nigel on the Yellow Horse 

Can leave the world behinde. 

Before them lay a rolling ocean of dark heather* knee- 
deep, swelling in billow on billow up to the clear-cut hill 
before them. Above stretched one unbrokeri arch of peace- 
ful blue, with a sun which was sinking down toward the 
Hampshire hills. Through the deep heather, down the gul- 
lies, over the watercourses, up the broken slopes, Pommers 
flew, his great heart bursting with rage, and every fiber 
quivering at the indignities which he had endured. 

And still, do what he would* the man clung fast to his 
heaving sides and to his flying mane, silent, motionless, in- 
exorable, letting him do what he would, but fixed as Fate 
upon his purpose. Over Hankley Down, through Thursley 
Marsh, with the reeds up to his" mud-splashed withers, on- 
ward up the long slope of the Headland of the Hinds, dowri 
by the Nutcombe Gorge, slipping, blundering, bounding* 
but never slackening his fearful speed, on went the great 
yellow horse. The villagers of Shdtterrhill heard the wild 
clatter of hoofs, but ere they could swing the ox-hide cur- 
talris of their cottage doors horse and rider were lost amid 
the high bracken of the Haslemere Valley. On he went, 
and on, tdssing thfe miles behind his flying hoofs. No 
marsh-land could clog him, no hill could hold him back. 
Up the slope of Linchmere arid the long ascent of Fern- 
hurst he thundered as on the level, and it was hot until 



The Yellow Horse 

he had flown down the incline of Henley Hill, and the gray 
castle tower of Midhurst rose over the coppice in front; that 
at last the eager outstretched neck sank a little dtt the breast, 
and the breath came quick and fast. Look where he would 
in woodland and on down, his straining eyes could catch no 
sign of those plains of freedom which he sought. 

And yet another outrage ! It was bad that this creature 
should still cling so tight upon his back, but how he would 
even go to the intolerable length of checking him and guid- 
ing him oh the way that he would have hi'm go. There was 
a sharp pluck at his mouth, and his head was turned north 
once more. As well go that way as another, but this man 
was mad indeed if he thought that such a horse as Pommers 
was at the end of his spirit of his strength. He would soon 
show him that he was unconquered, if it strained his sinews 
or broke his heart to do so. Back then he flew up the lohg, 
long ascent. Would he ever get to the end of it ? Yet he 
would not own that he could go no farther while the riiari 
still kept his grip. He was white with fdam and caked with 
rhud. His eyes were gorged with blood, his mouth open 
and gasping, his nostrils expanded, his coat stark and reek- 
ing. On he flew down the long Siinday Hill until he reached 
the deep Kingsley Marsh at the bottom. No, it was too 
much ! Flesh and blood could go no farther. As he strug- 
gled out from the reedy slime With the heavy black mud 
still clinging to his fetlocks, he at last eased down with 
sobbing breath and slowed the tumultuous gallop to a canter. 

Oh, crowning infamy! Was there no limit to these 
degradations? He was ho longer even to choose his own 
pace. Since he had chosen to gallop so far at his own will 
he must now gallop farther still at the will of another. A 
spur struck home on either flarik. A stinging whip-lash fell 
across his shoulder. He bounded his own height in the air 
at the pain and the shame of it. Then, forgetting his 
weary limbs, forgetting his panting, reeking sides, forget- 
ting everything save this intolerable insult and the burning 
spirit within, he plunged off once more upon his furious 
gallop. He was out on the heather slopes again and head- 
ing for Weydown Common. On he fleW attd on. But 
again his brain failed him and again his limbs trembled be- 



28 Sir Nigel 

neath him, and yet again he strove to ease his pace, only 
to be driven onward by the cruel spur and the falling lash. 
He was blind and giddy with fatigue. 

He saw no longer where he placed his feet, he cared no 
longer whither he went, but his one mad longing was to 
get away from this dreadful thing, this torture which clung 
to him and would not let him go. Through Thursley village 
he passed, his eyes straining in his agony, his heart burst- 
ing within him, and he had won his way to the crest of 
Thursley Down, still stung forward by stab and blow, when 
his spirit weakened, his giant strength ebbed out of him, 
and with one deep sob of agony the yellow horse sank 
among the heather. So sudden was the fall that Nigel flew 
forward over his shoulder, and beast and man lay prostrate 
and gasping while the last red rim of the sun sank behind 
Butser and the first stars gleamed in a violet sky. 

The young Squire was the first to recover, and kneeling 
by the panting, overwrought horse he passed his hand gently 
over the tangled mane and down the foam-flecked face. 
The red eye rolled up at him ; but it was wonder not hatred, 
a prayer and not a threat, which he could read in it. As he 
stroked the reeking muzzle, the horse whinnied gently and 
thrust his nose into the hollow of his hand. It was enough. 
It was the end of the contest, the acceptance of new condi- 
tions by a chivalrous foe from a chivalrous victor. 

" You are my horse, Pommers," Nigel whispered, and 
he laid his cheek against the craning head. " I know you, 
Pommers, and you know me, and with the help of Saint 
Paul we shall teach some other folk to know us both. Now 
let us walk together as far as this moorland pond, for indeed 
I wot not whether it is you or I who need the water most." 

And so it was that some belated monks of Waverley pass- 
ing homeward from the outer farms saw a strange sight 
which they carried on with them so that it reached that very 
night the ears both of sacrist and of Abbot. For, as they 
passed through Tilford they had seen horse and man walk- 
ing side by side and head by head up the manor-house lane. 
And when they had raised their lanterns on the pair it 
was none other than the young Squire himself who was 
' leading home, as a shepherd leads a lamb, the fearsome 
yellow horse of Crooksbury. 



IV 

HOW THE SUMMONER CAME TO THE ^MANOR- 
HOUSE OF TILFORD 

BY the date of this chronicle the ascetic sternness of 
the old Norman castles had been humanized and 
refined so that the new dwellings of the nobility, 
if less imposing in appearance, were much more comfort- 
able as places of residence. A gentle race had built their 
houses rather for peace than for war. He who compares 
the savage bareness of Pevensey or Guildford with the piled 
grandeur of Bodmin or Windsor cannot fail to understand 
the change in manners which they represent. 

The earlier castles had a set purpose, for they were built 
that the invaders might hold down the country; but when 
the Conquest was once firmly established a castle had lost 
its meaning save as a refuge from justice or as a center 
for civil strife. On the marches of Wales and of Scotland 
the castle might continue to be a bulwark to the kingdom, 
and there still grew and flourished; but in all other places 
they were rather a menace to the King's majesty, and as 
such were discouraged and destroyed. By the reign of the 
third Edward the greater part of the old fighting castles 
had been converted into dwelling-houses or had been ruined 
in the civil wars, and left where their grim gray bones are 
still littered upon the brows of our hills. The new build- 
ings were either great country-houses, capable -of defense, 
but mainly residential, or they were manor-houses with no 
military significance at all. 

Such was the Tilford Manor-house where the last sur- 
vivora of the old and magnificent house of Loring still 
struggled hard to keep a footing and to hold off the monks 
and the lawyers from the few acres which were left to them. 
The mansion was a two-storied one, framed in heavy beams 
of wood, the interstices filled with rude blocks of stone. Aij 

29 



30 Sir Nigel 

outside staircase led up to several sleeping-rooms above. 
Below there were only two apartments, the smaller of which 
was the bower of the aged Lady Ermyntrude. The other 
was the hall, a very large room, which served as the living- 
room of the family and as the common dining-room of them- 
selves and of their little group of servants and retainers. 
The dwellings of these servants, the kitchens, the offices 
and the stables were all represented by a row of penthouses 
and sheds behind the main building. Here lived Charles 
the page, Peter the old falconer, Red Swire who ha4 fol- 
lowed Nigel's grandfather to the Scottish wars, Weather- 
cote the broken minstrel, John the cook, and other survivors 
of more prosperous days, who still clung to the old house 
as the barnacles to some wrecked and stranded vessel. 

One evening about a week after the breaking of the yellow 
horse, Nigel and his grandmother sat on either side of the 
large empty fireplace in this spacious apartment. The sup- 
per had been removed, and so had the trestle tables upon 
which it had been served, so that the room seemed bare and 
empty. The stone floor was strewed with a thick layer of 
green rushes, which was swept out every Saturday and 
carried with it all the dirt and debris of the week. Several 
dogs were now crouched among these rushes, gnawing and 
cracking the bones which had been thrown from the table. 
A long wooden buffet loaded with plates and dishes filled 
one end of the room, but there was little other furniture 
save some benches against the walls, two dorseret chairs, 
one small table littered with chessmen, and a great iron 
coffer. In one corner was a high wickerwork stand, and 
on it two stately falcons were perched, silent and motion- 
less, save for an occasional twinkle of their fierce yellow 
eyes. 

But if the actual fittings of the room would have appeared 
scanty to one who had lived in a more luxurious age, he 
would have been surprised on looking up to see the multi- 
tude of objects which were suspended above his head. Over 
the fireplace were the coats-of-arms of a number of houses 
allied by blood or by marriage to the Lorings. The two 
cresset-lights which flared upon each side gleamed upon the 
blue lion of the Percies, the red birds of de Valence, the 



How the Summoner Came 31 

black engrailed cross of de Mohuri, the silver star of de 
Vere, and the ruddy bars of FitzAlan, all grouped round 
the famous red roses on the silver shield which the Lorings 
had borne to glory upon many a bloody field, Then from 
side to side the room was spanned by heavy oaken beams 
from which a great number of objects were hanging. There 
were mail-shirts of obsolete pattern, several shields, one 
or two rusted and battered helmets, bow-staves, lances, 
otter-spears, harness, fishing-rods, and other implements of 
war or of the chase, while higher still amid the black shad- 
ows of the peaked roof could be seen rows of hams, flitches 
of bacon, salted geese, and those other forms of preserved 
meat which played so great a part in the housekeeping of 
the Middle Ages. 

Dame Ermyntrude Loring, daughter, wife, and mother of 
warriors, was herself a formidable figure. Tall and gaunt, 
with hard craggy features and intolerant dark eyes, even 
her snow-white hair and stooping back could not entirely 
remove the sense of fear which she inspired in those around 
her. Her thoughts and memories went back to harsher 
times, and she looked upon the England around her as a 
degenerate and effeminate land which had fallen away from 
the old standard of knightly courtesy and valor. 

The rising power of the people, the growing wealth of 
the Church, the increasing luxury in life and manners, and 
the gentler tone of the age were all equally abhorrent to 
her, so that the dread of her fierce face, and even of the 
heavy oak staff with which she supported her failing limbs, 
was widespread through all the country round. 

Vet if she was feared she was also respected, far in days 
when books were few and readers scarce, a long memory 
and a ready tongue were of the more value ; and where, save 
from Dame Errnyntrude, could the young unlettered Squires 
of Surrey and Hampshire hear of their grandfathers and 
their battles, or learn that lore of heraldry and chivalry 
which she handed down from a ruder but a more martial 
age? Poor as she was, there was no one in Surrey whose 
guidance would be more readily sought upon a question of 
precedence or of conduct than the Dame Ermyntrude 
Loring. 



32 Sir Nigel 

She sat now with bowed back by the empty fireplace, 
and looked across at Nigel with all the harsh lines of her 
old ruddled face softening into love and pride. The young 
Squire was busy cutting bird-bolts .for his crossbow, and 
whistling softly as he worked. Suddenly he looked up and 
caught the dark eyes which were fixed upon him. He 
leaned forward and patted the bony hand. 

" What hath pleased you, dear dame ? I read pleasure 
in your eyes." 

" I have heard to-day, Nigel, how you came to win that 
great war-horse which stamps in our stable." 

" Nay, dame ; I had told you that the monks had given 
it to me." 

" You said so, fair son, but never a word more. Yet the 
horse which you brought home was a very different horse, 
I wot, to that which was given you. Why did you not tell 
me?" 

" I should think it shame to talk of such a thing." 

" So would your father before you, and his father no less. 
They would sit silent among the knights when the wine 
went round and listen to every man's deeds; but if per- 
chance there was anyone who spoke louder than the rest 
and seemed to be eager for honor, then afterwards your 
father would pluck him softly by the sleeve and whisper 
in his ear to learn if there was any small vow of which he 
could relieve him, or if he would deign to perform some 
noble deed of arms upon his person. And if the man were 
a braggart and would go no further, your father would be 
silent and none would know it. But if he bore himself 
well, your father would spread his fame far and wide, but 
never make mention of himself." 

Nigel looked at the old woman with shining eyes. " I 
love to hear you speak of him," said he. " I pray you to 
tell me once more of the manner of his death." 

" He died as he had lived, a very courtly gentleman. It 
was at the great sea-battle upon the Norman coast, and 
your father was in command of the after-guard in the 
King's own ship. Now the French had taken a great Eng- 
lish ship the year before when they came over and held 
the narrow seas and burned the town of Southampton, 



How the Summoner Came 33 

This ship was the Christopher, and they placed it in the 
front of their battle; but the English closed upon it and 
stormed over its side, and slew all who were upon it. 

" But your father and Sir Lorredan of Genoa, who com- 
manded the Christopher, fought upon the high poop, so that 
all the fleet stopped to watch it, and the King himself cried 
aloud at the sight, for Sir Lorredan was a famous man-at- 
arms and bore himself very stoutly that day, and many a 
knight envied your father that he should have chanced upon 
so excellent a person. But your father bore him back and 
struck him such a blow with a mace that he turned the 
helmet half round on his head, so that he could no longer 
see through the eyeholes, and Sir Lorredan threw down his 
sword and gave himself to ransom. But your father took 
him by the helmet and twisted it until he had it straight 
upon his head. Then, when he could see once again, he 
handed him his sword, and prayed him that he would rest 
himself and then continue, for it was great profit and joy 
to see any gentleman carry himself so well. So they sat 
together and rested by the rail of the poop; but even as 
they raised their hands again your father was struck by a 
stone from a mangonel and so died." 

" And this Sir Lorredan," cried Nigel, " he died also, 
as I understand ? " 

" I fear that he was slain by the archers, for they loved 
your father, and they do not see these things with our 
eyes." 

" It was a pity," said Nigel ; " for it is clear that he was 
a good knight and bore himself very bravely." 

" Time was, when I was young, when commoners dared 
not have laid their grimy hands upon such a man. Men 
of gentle blood and coat-armor made war upon each other, 
and the others, spearmen or archers, could scramble amongst 
themselves. But now all are of a level, and only here and 
there one like yourself, fair son, who reminds me of the 
men who are gone." 

Nigel leaned forward and took her hands in his. " What 
I am you have made me," said he. 

" It is true, Nigel. I have indeed watched over you as 
the gardener watches his most previous blossom, for in y 



34 Sir Nigel 

alone are all the hopes of our ancient house, and soon very 
soon you will be alone." 

" Nay, dear lady, say not that." 

" I am very old, Nigel, and I feel the shadow closing in 
upon me. My heart yearns to go, for all whom I have 
known and loved have gone before me. And you it will 
be a blessed day for you, since I have held you back from 
that world into which your brave spirit longs to plunge." 

" Nay, nay, I have been happy here with you at Tilford." 

" We are very poor, Nigel. I do not know where we 
may find the money to fit you for the wars. Yet we have 
good friends. There is Sir John Chandos, who has won 
such credit in the French wars and who rides ever by the 
King's bridle-arm. He was your father's friend and they 
were Squires together. If I sent you to court with a mes- 
sage to him he would do what he could." 

Nigel's fair face flushed. " Nay, Dame Ermyntrude, I 
must find my own gear, even as I have found my own horse, 
for I had rather ride into battle in this tunic than owe my 
suit to another." 

" I feared that you would say so, Nigel ; but indeed I 
know not how else we may get the money," said the old 
woman sadly. " It was different in the days of my father. 
I can remember that a suit of mail was but a small matter 
in those days, for in every English town such things could 
be made. But year by year since men have come to take 
more care of their bodies, there have been added a plate 
of proof here and a cunning joint there, and all must be 
from Toledo or Milan, so that a knight must have much 
metal in his purse ere he puts any on his limbs." 

Nigel looked up wistfully at the old armor which was 
slung on the beams above him. " The ash spear is good," 
said he, " and so is the oaken shield with facings of steel. 
Sir Roger FitzAlan handled them and said that he had 
never seen better. But the armor " 

Lady Ermyntrude shook her old head and laughed. 
' You have your father's great soul, Nigel, but you have 
not his mighty breadth of shoulder and length of limb. 
There was not in all the King's great host a taller or a 
stronger man. Jlis harness would be little use to you. No, 



How the Summoner Came 35 

fair son, I rede you that when the time comes you sell this 
crumbling house and the few acres which are still left, and 
so go forth to the wars in the hope that with your own 
right hand you will plant the fortunes of a new house of 
Loring." 

A shadow of anger passed over Nigel's fresh young face. 
" I know not if we may hold off these monks and their 
lawyers much longer. This very day there came a man 
from Guild ford with claims from the Abbey extending back 
before my father's death." 

" Where are they, fair son ? " 

" They are flapping on the furze-bushes of Hankley, for 
I sent his papers and parchments down wind as fast as 
ever falcon flew." 

" Nay ! you were mad to do that, Nigel. And the man, 
where is he ? " 

" Red Swire and old George the archer threw him into 
the Thursley bog." 

" Alas ! I fear me such things cannot be done in these 
days, though my father or my husband would have sent the 
rascal back to Guildford without his ears. But the Church 
and the Law are too strong now for us who are of gentler 
blood. Trouble will come of it, Nigel, for the Abbot of 
Waverley is not one who will hold back the shield of the 
Church from those who are her servants." 

" The Abbot would not hurt us. It is that gray lean wolf 
of a sacrist who hungers for our land. Let him do his 
worst. I fear him not." 

" He has such an engine at his back, Nigel, that even 
the bravest must fear him. The ban which blasts a man's 
soul is in the keeping of his church, and what have we to 
place against it ? I pray you to speak him fair, Nigel." 

" Nay, dear lady, it is both my duty and my pleasure to 
do what you bid me ; but I would die ere I ask as a favor 
that which we can claim as a right. Never can I cast my 
eyes from yonder window that I do not see the swelling 
down-lands and the rich meadows, glade and dingle, copse 
and wood, which have been ours since Norman William 
gave them to that Loring who bore his shield at Senlac. 
Now, by trick and fraud, they have passed away from us, 



36 Sir Nigel 

and many a franklin is a richer man than I ; but never shall 
it be said that I saved the rest by bending my neck to their 
yoke. Let them do their worst, and let me endure it or 
fight it as best I may." 

The old lady sighed and shook her head. " You speak 
as a Loring should, and yet I fear that some great trouble 
will befall us. But let us talk no more of such matters, 
since we cannot mend them. Where is your citole, Nigel ? 
Will you not play arid sing to me ? " 

The gentleman of those days could scarce read and write ; 
but he spoke in two languages, played at least one musical 
instrument as a matter of course, and possessed a number 
of other accomplishments, from the imping of hawk's feath- 
ers, to the mystery of venery, with knowledge of every beast 
and bird, its time of grace and when it was seasonable. As 
far as physical feats went, to vault barebacked upon a 
horse, to hit a running hare with a crossbow-bolt, or to climb 
the angle of a castle courtyard, were feats which had come 
by nature to the young Squire ; but it was very different with 
music, which had called for many a weary hour of irksome 
work. Now at last he could master the strings, but both 
his ear and his voice were not of the best, so that it was 
well perhaps that there was so small and so unprejudiced 
an audience to the Norman-French chanson, which he sang 
in a high reedy voice with great earnestness of feeling, but 
with many a slip and quaver, waving his yellow head in 
cadence to the music : 

A sword! A sword! Ah, give me a sword! 

For the world is all to win. 
Though the way be hard and the door be barred, 

The strong man enters in. 
If Chance and Fate still hold the gate, 

Give me the iron key, 
And turret high my plume shall fly, 

Or you may weep for me! 

A horse! A horse! Ah, give me a horse! 

To bear me out afar, 
Where blackest need and grimmest dee4 

And sweetest perils are, 



How the Summoner Came 37 

Hold thou my ways from glutted days 

Where poisoned leisure lies, 
And point the path of tears and wrath 

Which mounts to high emprise! 

A heart! A heart! Ah, give me a heart 

To rise to circumstance! 
Serene and high and bold to try 

The hazard of the chance, 
With strength to wait, but fixed as fate 

To plan and dare and do, 
The peer of all, and only thrall, 

Sweet lady mine, to you! 

It may have been that the sentiment went for more than 
the music, or it may have been the nicety of her own ears 
had been dulled by age, but old Dame Ermyntrude clapped 
her lean hands together and cried out in shrill applause., 

" Weathercote has indeed had an apt pupil ! " she said. 
" I pray you that you will sing again." 

" Nay, dear dame, it is turn and turn betwixt you and 
me. I beg that you will recite a romance, you who know 
them all. For all the years that I have listened I have never 
yet come to the end of them, and I dare swear that there 
are more in your head than in all the great books which 
they showed me at Guildford Castle. I would fain hear 
' Boon of Mayence,' or 'The Song of Roland,' or 'Sir 
Isumbras.' ' : 

So the old dame broke into a long poem, slow and dull 
in the inception, but quickening as the interest grew, until 
with darting hands and glowing face she poured forth the 
verses which told of the emptiness of sordid life, the beauty 
of heroic death, the high sacredness of love and the bondage 
of honor. Nigel, with set, still features and brooding eyes, 
drank in the fiery words, until at last they died upon the 
old woman's lips and she sank back weary in her chair. 
Nigel stooped over her and kissed her brow. 

"Your words will ever be as a star upon my path," said 
he. Then, carrying over the small table and the chesslSen, 
he proposed that they should play their usual game before 
they sought their rooms for the night. 



3 8 Sir Nigel 

But a sudden an<i rude interruption broke in upon their 
gentle contest. A dog pricked its ears and barked. The 
others ran growling to the door. And then there came a 
sharp clash of arms, a dull heavy blow as from a club or 
sword-pommel, and a deep voice from without summoned 
them to open in the King's name. The old dame and Nigel 
had both sprung to their feet, their table overturned and 
their chessmen scattered among the rushes. Nigel's hand 
had sought his crossbow, but the Lady Ermyntrude grasped 
his arm. 

" Nay, fair son ! Have you not heard that it is in the 
King's name ? " said she. " Down, Talbot ! Down, Bayard ! 
Open the door and let his messenger in ! " 

Nigel undid the bolt, and the heavy wooden door swung 
outward upon its hinges. The light from the flaring cres- 
sets beat upon steel caps and fierce bearded faces, with the 
glimmer of drawn swords and the yellow gleam of bow- 
staves. A dozen armed archers forced their way into the 
room. At their head were the gaunt sacrist of Waverley 
and a stout elderly man clad in a red-velvet doublet and 
breeches much stained and mottled with mud and clay. 
He bore a great sheet of parchment with a fringe of dangling 
seals, which he held aloft as he entered. 

" I call on Nigel Loring ! " he cried. " I, the officer of 
the King's law and the lay summoner of Waverley, call 
upon the man named Nigel Loring ! " 

" I am he." 

" Yes, it is he ! " cried the sacrist. " Archers, do as you 
were ordered ! " 

In an instant the band threw themselves upon him like 
the hounds on a . stag. Desperately Nigel strove to gain 
his sword which lay upon the iron coffer. With the con- 
vulsive strength which comes from the spirit rather than 
from the body, he bore them all in that direction, but the 
sacrist snatched the weapon from, its place, and the rest 
dragged the writhing Squire to the ground and swathed 
him in a cord. 

Hold him fast, good archers ! Keep a stout grip on 
him ! " cried the summoner. " I pray you, one of you, prick 
off these great dogs which snarl at my heels. Stand off, 



How the Summoner Came 39 

I say, in the name of the King! Watkin, come betwixt 
me and these creatures who have as little regard for the 
law as their master." 

One of the archers kicked off the faithful dogs. But 
there were others of the household who were equally ready 
to show their teeth in defense of the old house of Loring. 
From the door which led to their quarters there emerged 
the pitiful muster of Nigel's threadbare retainers. There 
was a time when ten knights, forty men-at-arms and two 
hundred archers would march behind the scarlet roses. 
Now at this last rally when the young head of the house 
lay bound in his own hall, there mustered at his call the 
page Charles with a cudgel, John the cook with his longest 
spit, Red Swire the aged man-at-arms with a formidable 
ax swung over his snowy head, and Weathercote the min- 
strel with a boar-spear. Yet this motley array was fired 
with the spirit of the house, and under the lead of the fierce 
old soldier they would certainly have flung themselves upon 
the ready swords of the archers, had the Lady Ermyntrude 
not swept between them. 

" Stand back, Swire ! " she cried. " Back, Weathercote ! 
Charles, put a leash on Talbot, and hold Bayard back ! " 
Her black eyes blazed upon the invaders until they shrank 
from that baleful gaze. " Who are you, you rascal robbers, 
who dare to misuse the King's name and to lay hands upon 
one whose smallest drop of blood has more worth than all 
your thrall and caitiff bodies ? " 

" Nay, not so fast, dame, not so fast, I pray you ! " cried 
the stout summoner, whose face had resumed its natural 
color, now that he had a woman to deal with. ' There is 
a law of England, mark you, and there are those who serve 
and uphold it, who are the true men and the King's own 
lieges. Such a one am I. Then again, there are those 
who take such as me and transfer, carry or convey us into 
a bog or morass. Such a one is this graceless old man with 
the ax, whom I have seen already this day. There are also 
those who tear, destroy or scatter the papers of the law, of 
which this young man is the chief. Therefore, I would rede 
you, dame, not to rail against us, but to understand that 
we are the King's men on the King's own service." 



4.0 Sir Nigel 

" What then is your errand in this house at this hour 
of the night?" 

The summoner cleared his throat pompously, and turn- 
ing his parchment to the light of the cressets he read out 
a long document in Norman-French, couched in such a style 
and such a language that the most involved and foolish 
of our forms were simplicity itself compared to those by 
which the men of the long gown made a mystery of that 
which of all things on earth should be the plainest and the 
most simple. Despair fell cold upon Nigel's heart and 
blanched the face of the old dame as they listened to the 
dread catalogue of claims and suits and issues, questions 
of peccary and turbary, of house-bote and fire-bote, which 
ended by a demand for all the lands, hereditaments, tene- 
ments, messuages and curtilages, which made up their 
worldly all. 

Nigel, still bound, had been placed with his back against 
the iron coffer, whence he heard with dry lips and moist 
brow this doom of his house. Now he broke in on the 
recital with a vehemence which made the summoner jump: 

" You shall rue what you have done this night ! " he cried. 
" Poor as we are, we have our friends who will not see us 
wronged, and I will plead my cause before the King's own 
majesty at Windsor, that he, who saw the father die, may 
know what things are done in his royal name against the 
son. But these matters are to be settled in course of law 
in the King's courts, and how will you excuse yourself for 
this assault upon my house and person ? " 

' Nay, that is another matter," said the sacrist. " The 
question of debt may indeed be an affair of a civil court. 
But it is a crime against the law and an act of the Devil 
which comes within the jurisdiction of the Abbey Court of 
Waverley when you dare to lay hands upon the summoner 
or his papers." 

" Indeed, he speaks truth," cried the official. " I know 
no blacker sin." 

"Therefore," said the stern monk, "it is the order of 
the holy father Abbot that you sleep this night in the Abbey 
cell, and that to-morrow you be brought before him at the 
court held in the chapter-house so that you receive the fit 



How the Summoner Came 41 

punishment for this and the many other violent and froward 
deeds which you have wrought upon the servants of Holy 
Church. Enough is now said, worthy master summoner. 
Archers, remove your prisoner ! " 

As Nigel was lifted up by four stout archers, the Dame 
Ermyntrude would have rushed to his aid, but the sacrist 
thrust her back. 

" Stand off, proud woman ! Let the law take its course, 
and learn to humble your heart before the power of Holy 
Church. Has your life not taught its lesson, you, whose 
horn was exalted among the highest and will soon not have 
a roof above your gray hairs? Stand back, I say, lest I 
lay a curse upon you ! " 

The old dame flamed suddenly into white wrath as she 
stood before the angry monk : " Listen to me while I lay 
a curse upon you and yours ! " she cried as she raised her 
shriveled arms and blighted him with her flashing eyes: 
" As you have done to the house of Loring, so may God 
do to you, until your power is swept from the land of Eng- 
land, and of your great Abbey of Waverley there is nothing 
left but a pile of gray stones in a green meadow ! I see it ! 
I see it! With my old eyes I see it! From scullion to 
Abbot and from cellar to tower, may Waverley and all 
within it droop and wither from this night on ! " 

The monk, hard as he was, quailed before the frantic 
figure and the bitter, burning words. Already the sum- 
moner and the archers with their prisoner were clear of the 
house. He turned and with a clang he shut the heavy door 
behind him. 



HOW NIGEL WAS TRIED BY THE ABBOT 
OF WAVERLEY 

THE law of the Middle Ages, shrouded as it was 
in old Norman- French dialect, and abounding in 
uncouth and incomprehensible terms, in deodands 
and heriots, in infang and outfang, was a fearsome weapon 
in the hands of those who knew how to use it. It was not 
for nothing that the first act of the rebel commoners was 
to hew off the head of the Lord Chancellor. In an age when 
few knew how to read or to write, these mystic phrases and 
intricate forms, with the parchments and seals which were 
their outward expression, struck cold terror into hearts 
which were steeled against mere physical danger. 

Even young Nigel Loring's blithe and elastic spirit was 
chilled as he lay that night in the penal cell of Waverley 
and pondered over the absolute ruin which threatened his 
house from a source against which all his courage was of 
no avail. As well take up sword and shield to defend 
himself against the black death, as against this blight of 
Holy Church. He was powerless in the grip of the Abbey. 
Already they had shorn off a field here and a grove there, 
and now in one sweep they would take in the rest, and where 
then was the home of the Lorings, and where should Lady 
Ermyntrude lay her aged head, or his old retainers, broken 
and spent, eke out the balance of their days? He shivered 
as he thought of it. 

It was very well for him to threaten to carry the matter 
before the King, but it was years since royal Edward had 
heard the name of Loring, and Nigel knew that the memory 
of princes was a short one. Besides, the Church was the 
ruling power in the palace as well as in the cottage, and it 
was only for very good cause that a King could be expected 
to cross the purposes of so high a prelate as the Abbot of 

42 



Tried by the Abbot 43 

Waverley, as long as they came within the scope of the law. 
Where then was he to look for help ? With the simple and 
practical piety of the age, he prayed for the aid of his own 
particular saints: of Saint Paul, whose adventures by land 
and sea had always endeared him ; of Saint George, who had 
gained much honorable advancement from the Dragon ; and 
of Saint Thomas, who was a gentleman of coat-armor, who 
would understand and help a person of gentle blood. Then, 
much comforted by his naive orisons he enjoyed the sleep 
of youth and health until the entrance of the lay brother 
with the bread and small beer, which served as breakfast, in 
the morning. 

The Abbey court sat in the chapter-house at the canonical 
hour of tierce, which was nine in the forenoon. At all 
times the function was a solemn one, even when the culprit 
might be a villain who was taken poaching on the Abbey 
estate, or a chapman who had given false measure from 
his biased scales. But now, when a man of noble birth 
was to be tried, the whole legal and ecclesiastical ceremony 
was carried out with every detail, grotesque or impressive, 
which the full ritual prescribed. The distant roll of church 
music and the slow tolling of the Abbey bell; the white- 
robed brethren, two and two, walked thrice round the hall 
singing the " Benedicite " and the " Veni, Creator " before 
they settled in their places at the desks on either side. Then 
in turn each high officer of the Abbey from below upward, 
the almoner, the lector, the chaplain, the subprior and the 
prior, swept to their wonted places. 

Finally there came the grim sacrist, with demure triumph 
upon his downcast features, and at his heels Abbot John 
himself, slow and dignified, with pompous walk and solemn, 
composed face, his iron-beaded rosary swinging from his 
waist, his breviary in his hand, and his lips muttering as 
he hurried through his office for the day. He knelt at his 
high pre-dieu; the brethren, at a signal from the prior, 
prostrated themselves upon the floor, and the low deep voices 
rolled in prayer, echoed back from the arched and vaulted 
roof like the wash of waves from an ocean cavern. Finally 
the monks resumed their seats; there entered clerks in 
seemly black with pens and parchment; the red-velveted 



44 Sir Nigel 

summoner appeared to tell his tale ; Nigel was led in with 
archers pressing close around him; and then, with much 
calling of old French and much legal incantation and mys- 
tery, the court of the Abbey was open for business. 

It was the sacrist who first advanced to the oaken desk 
reserved for the witnesses and expounded in hard, dry, 
mechanical fashion the many claims which the House of 
Waverley had against the family of Loring. Some genera- 
tions back in return for money advanced or for spiritual 
favor received the Loring of the day had admitted that his 
estate had certain feudal duties toward the Abbey. The 
sacrist held up the crackling yellow parchment with swing- 
ing leaden seals on which the claim was based. Amid the 
obligations was that of escuage, by which the price of a 
knight's fee should be paid every year. No such price had 
been paid, nor had any service been done. The accumulated 
years came now to a greater sum than the fee simple of the 
estate. There were other claims also. The sacrist called 
for his books, and with thin, eager forefinger he tracked 
them down: dues for this, and tailage for that, so many 
shillings this year, and so many marks that one. Some of 
it occurred before Nigel was born ; some of it when he was 
but a child. The accounts had been checked and certified 
by the sergeant of the law. 

Nigel listened to the dread recital, and felt like some 
young stag who stands at bay with brave pose and heart 
of fire, but who sees himself compassed round and knows 
clearly that there is no escape. With his bold young face, 
his steady blue eyes, and the proud poise of his head, he 
was a worthy scion of the old house, and the sun, shining 
through the high oriel window, and showing up the stained 
and threadbare condition of his once rich doublet, seemed 
to illuminate the fallen fortunes of his family. 

The sacrist had finished his exposition, and the sergeant- 
at-law was about to conclude a case which Nigel could in 
no way controvert, when help came to him from an unex- 
pected quarter. It may have been a certain malignity with 
which the sacrist urged his suit, it may have been a diplo- 
matic dislike to driving matters to extremes, or it may have 



Tried by the Abbot 45 

been some genuine impulse of kindliness, for Abbot John 
was choleric but easily appeased. Whatever the cause, the 
result was that a white plump hand, raised in the air with 
a gesture of authority, showed that the case was at an end. 

" Our brother sacrist hath done his duty in urging this 
suit," said he, " for the worldly wealth of this Abbey is 
placed in his pious keeping, and it is to him that we should 
look if we suffered in such ways, for we are but the trustees 
of those who come after us. But to my keeping has been 
consigned that which is more precious still, the inner spirit 
and high repute of those who follow the rule of Saint Ber- 
nard. Now it has ever been our endeavor, since first our 
saintly founder went down into the valley of Clairvaux and 
built himself a cell there, that we should set an example 
to all men in gentleness and humility. For this reason it 
is that we built our houses in lowly places, that we have 
no tower to our Abbey churches, and that no finery and 
no metal, save only iron or lead, come within our walls. A 
brother shall eat from a wooden platter, drink from an iron 
cup, and light himself from a leaden sconce. Surely it is 
not for such an order who await the exaltation which is 
promised to the humble, to judge their own case and so 
acquire the lands of their neighbor ! If our cause be just, 
as indeed I believe that it is, then it were better that it be 
judged at the King's assizes at Guildford, and so I decree 
that the case be now dismissed from the Abbey court so 
that it can be heard elsewhere." 

Nigel breathed a prayer to the three sturdy saints who 
had stood by him so manfully and well' in the hour of his 
need. " Abbot John," said he, " I never thought that any 
man of my name would utter thanks to a Cistercian of 
Waverley ; but by Saint Paul ! you have spoken like a man 
this day, for it would indeed be to play with cogged dice 
if the Abbey's case is to be tried in the Abbey court." 

The eighty white-clad brethren looked with half resentful, 
half amused eyes as they listened to this frank address to 
one who, in their small lives, seemed to be the direct vice- 
gerent of Heaven. The archers had stood back from Nigel, 
as though he was at liberty to go, when the Iou4 voice of 
the summoner broke in upon the silence : 



46 Sir Nigel 

" If it please yon, holy father Abbot/' cried the voice, 
" this decision of yours is indeed secundum legem and intra 
vires so far as the civil suit is concerned which lies between 
this person and the Abbey. That is your affair ; but it is 
I, Joseph the summoner, who have been grievously and 
criminally mishandled, my writs, papers and indentures 
destroyed, my authority flouted, and my person dragged 
through a bog, quagmire or morass, -so that my velvet 
gabardine and silver badge of office were lost and are, as 
I verily believe, in the morass, quagmire or bog aforemen- 
tioned, which is the same bog, morass " 

" Enough ! " cried the Abbot sternly. " Lay aside this 
foolish fashion of speech and say straitly what you desire." 

" Holy father, I have been the officer of the King's law 
no less than the servant of Holy Church, and I have been 
let, hindered and assaulted in the performance of my law- 
ful and proper duties, whilst my papers, drawn in the King's 
name, have been shended and rended and cast to the wind. 
Therefore, I demand justice upon this man in the Abbey 
court, the said assault having been committed within the 
banlieue of the Abbey's jurisdiction." 

" What have you to say to this, brother sacrist ? " asked 
the Abbot in some perplexity. 

" I would say, father, that it is within our power to deal 
gently and charitably with all that concerns ourselves, but 
that where the King's officer is concerned we are wanting 
in our duty if we give him less than the protection that he 
demands. I would remind you also, holy father, that this 
is not the first of this man's violence, but that he has before 
now beaten our servants, defied our authority, and put pike 
in the Abbot's own fish-pond." 

The prelate's heavy cheeks flushed with anger as this old 
grievance came fresh into his mind. His eyes hardened as 
he looked at the prisoner. " Tell me, Squire Nigel, did you 
indeed put pike in the pond ? " 

The young man drew himself proudly up. " Ere I 
answer such a question, father Abbot, do you answer one 
from me, and tell me what the monks of Waverley have 
ever done for me that I should hold my hand when I 
could injure them?" 



Tried by the Abbot 47 

A low murmur ran round the room, partly wonder at 
his frankness, and partly anger at his boldness. 

The Abbot settled down in his seat as one who has made 
up his mind. " Let the case of the summoner be laid be- 
fore me," said he. " Justice shall be done, and the offender 
shall be punished, be he noble or simple. Let the plaint be 
brought before the court." 

The tale of the summoner, though rambling and filled 
with endless legal reiteration, was only too clear in its 
essence. Red Swire, with his angry face framed in white 
bristles, was led in, and confessed to his ill treatment of 
the official. A second culprit, a little wiry nut-brown archer 
from Churt, had aided and abetted in the deed. Both of 
them were ready to declare that young Squire Nigel Loring 
knew nothing of the matter. But then there was the awkward 
incident of the tearing of the writs. Nigel, to whom a lie 
was an impossibility, had to admit that with his own hands 
he had shredded those august documents. As to an excuse 
or an explanation, he was too proud to advance any. A 
cloud gathered over the brow of the Abbot, and the sacrist 
gazed with an ironical smile at the prisoner, while a solemn 
hush fell over the chapter-house as the case ended and only 
judgment remained. 

" Squire Nigel," said the Abbot, " it was for you, who 
are, as all men know, of ancient lineage in this land, to give 
a fair example by which others should set their conduct. 
Instead of this, your manor-house has ever been a center 
for the stirring up of strife, and now not content with your 
harsh showing toward us, the Cistercian monks of Waver- 
ley, you have even marked your contempt for the King's 
law, and through your servants have mishandled the person 
of his messenger. For such offenses it is in my power to 
call the spiritual terrors of the Church upon your head, and 
yet I would not be harsh with you, seeing that you are 
young, and that even last week you saved the life of a 
servant of the Abbey when in peril. Therefore, it is by 
temporal and carnal means that I will use my power to 
tame your overbold spirit, and to chasten that headstrong 
and violent humor which has caused such scandal in your 
dealings with our Abbey. Bread and water for six weeks 



4 8 Sir Nigel 

from now to the Feast of Saint Benedict, with a daily 
exhortation from our chaplain, the pious Father Ambrose, 
may still avail to bend the stiff neck and to soften the 
hard heart." 

At this ignominious sentence by which the proud heir 
of the house of Loring would share the fate of the meanest 
village poacher, the hot blood of Nigel rushed to his face, 
and his eye glanced round him with a gleam which said 
more plainly than words that there could be no tame accept- 
ance of such a doom. Twice he tried to speak, and twice 
his anger and his shame held the words in his throat. 

'"I am no subject of yours, proud Abbot!" he cried at 
last. " My house has ever been vavasor to the King. I 
deny the power of you and your court to lay sentence upon 
me. Punish these your own monks, who whimper at your 
frown, but do not dare to lay your hand upon him who 
fears you not, for he is a free man, and the peer of any 
save only the King himself." 

The Abbot seemed for an instant taken aback by these 
bold words, and by the high and strenuous voice in which 
they were uttered. But the sterner sacrist came as ever to 
stiffen his will. He held up the old parchment in his hand. 

:< The Lorings were indeed vavasors to the King," said 
he; "but here is the very seal of Eustace Loring which 
shows that he made himself vassal to the Abbey and held 
his land from it." 

" Because he was gentle," cried Nigel, " because he had 
no thought of trick or guile." 

" Nay ! " said the summoner. " If my voice may be 
heard, father Abbot, upon a point of the law, it is of no 
weight what the causes may have been why a deed is sub- 
scribed, signed or confirmed, but a court is concerned only 
with the terms, articles, covenants and contracts of the 
said deed." 

" Besides," said the sacrist, " sentence is passed by the 
Abbey court, and there is an end of its honor and good name 
if it be not upheld." 

"Brother sacrist," said the Abbot angrily, "rethinks 
you show overmuch zeal in this case, and certes, we are 
well able to uphold the dignitv and honor of the Abbey 



Tried by the Abbot 49 

court without any rede of thine. As to you, worthy sum- 
moner, you will give your opinion when we crave for it, and 
not before, or you may yourself get some touch of the 
power of our tribunal. But your case hath been tried, 
Squire Loring, and judgment given. I have no more to 
say." 

He motioned with his hand, and an archer laid his grip 
upon the shoulder of the prisoner. But that rough plebeian 
touch woke every passion of revolt in Nigel's spirit. Of 
all his high line of ancestors, was there one who had been 
subjected to such ignominy as this? Would they not have 
preferred death? And should he be the first to lower their 
spirit or their traditions? With a quick, lithe movement, 
he slipped under the arm of the archer, and plucked the 
she-it, straight sword from the soldier's side as he did so. 
"The next instant he had wedged himself into the recess of 
I one of the narrow windows, and there were his pale set face, 
his burning eyes, and his ready blade turned upon the 
assembly. J 

" By-SSmt Paul ! " said he, " I never thought to find 
honorable advancement under the roof of an abbey, but 
perchance there may be some room for it ere you hale me 
to your prison." 

The chapter-house was in an uproar. Never in the long 
and decorous history of the Abbey had such a scene been 
witnessed within its walls. The monks themselves seemed 
for an instant to be infected by this spirit of daring revolt. 
Their own lifelong fetters hung more loosely as they viewed 
this unheard-of defiance of authority. They broke from 
their seats on either side and huddled half-scared, half- 
fascinated, in a large half-circle round the defiant captive, 
chattering, pointing, grimacing, a scandal for all time. 
Scourges should fall and penance be done for many a long 
week before the shadow of that day should pass from 
Waverley. But meanwhile there was no effort to bring 
them back to their rule. Everything was chaos and dis- 
order. The Abbot had left his seat of justice and hurried 
angrily forward, to be engulfed and hustled in the crowd 
of his own monks like a sheep-dog who finds himself en- 
tangled amid a flock, 



50 Sir Nigel 

Only the sacrist stood clear. He had taken shelter be- 
hind the half-dozen archers, who looked with some approval 
and a good deal of indecision at this bold fugitive from 
justice. 

" On him ! " cried the sacrist. " Shall he defy the 
authority of the court, or shall one man hold six of you 
at bay ? Close in upon him and seize him. You, Baddies- 
mere, why do you hold back ? " 

The man in question, a tall bushy-bearded fellow, clad 
like the others in green jerkin and breeches with high brown 
boots, advanced slowly, sword in hand, against Nigel. His 
heart was not in the business, for these clerical courts were 
not popular, and everyone had a tender heart for the fallen 
fortunes of the house of Loring and wished well to its 
young heir. 

" Come, young sir, you have caused scathe enough," said 
he. " Stand forth and give yourself up ! " 

" Come and fetch me, good fellow," said Nigel, with a 
dangerous smile. 

The archer ran in. There was a rasp of steel, a blade 
flickered like a swift dart of flame, and the man staggered 
back, with blood running down his forearm and dripping 
from his fingers. He wrung them and growled a Saxon 
oath. 

" By the black rood of Bromeholm ! " he cried, " I had 
as soon put my hand down a fox's earth to drag up a vixen 
from her cubs." 

" Stand off ! " said Nigel curtly. " I would not hurt you ; 
but by Saint Paul ! I will not be handled, or some one will 
be hurt in the handling." 

So fierce was his eye and so menacing his blade as he 
crouched in the narrow bay of the window that the little 
knot of archers were at a loss what to do. The Abbot had 
forced his way through the crowd and stood, purple with 
outraged dignity, at their side. 

" He is outside the law," said he. " He hath shed blood 
in a court of justice, and for such a sin there is no forgive- 
ness. I will not have my court so flouted and set at naught. 
He who draws tjie, sword, by the sword also, let jtiim perish, 
Forester Hv-jSft lay a shaft to your bow I " * 



Tried by the Abbot 51 

The man, who was one of the Abbey's lay servants, put 
his weight upon his long bow and slipped the loose end 
of the string into the upper notch. Then, drawing one of 
the terrible three-foot arrows, steel-tipped and gaudily 
winged, from his waist, he laid it to the string. 

" Now draw your bow and hold it ready ! " cried the 
furious Abbot. " Squire Nigel, it is not for Holy Church 
to shed blood, but there is naught but violence which will 
prevail against the violent, and on your head be the sin. 
Cast down the sword which you hold in your hand ! " 

" Will you give me freedom to leave your Abbey ? " 

" When you have abided your sentence and purged your 
sin." 

" Then I had rather die where I stand than give up my 
sword." 

A dangerous flame lit in the Abbot's eyes. He came of 
a fighting Norman stock, like so many of those fierce prel- 
ates who, bearing a mace lest they should be guilty of 
effusion of blood, led their troops into battle, ever remem- 
bering that it was one of their own cloth and dignity who, 
crosier in hand, had turned the long-drawn bloody day of 
Hastings. The soft accent of the churchman was gone 
and it was the hard voice of a soldier which said : 

" One minute I give you, and no more. Then when I 
cry ' Loose ! ' drive me an arrow through his body." 

The shaft was fitted, the bow was bent, and the stern 
eyes of the woodman were fixed on his mark. Slowly the 
minute passed, while Nigel breathed a prayer to his three 
soldier saints, not that they should save his body in this 
life, but that they should have a kindly care for his soul 
in the next. Some thought of a fierce wildcat sally crossed 
his mind, but once out of his corner he was lost indeed. 
Yet at the last he would have rushed among his enemies, 
and his body was bent for the spring, when with a deep 
sonorous hum, like a breaking harp-string, the cord of 
the bow was cloven in twain, and the arrow tinkled upon 
the tiled floor. At the same moment a young curly-headed 
bowman, whose broad shoulders and deep chest told of 
immense strength, as clearly as his frank, laughing face 
and honest teel eyes did of good humor and courage, 



52 Sir Nigel 

sprang forward sword in hand and took his place by Nigel's 
side. 

" Nay, comrades ! " said he. " Samkin Aylward cannot 
stand by and see a gallant man shot down like a bull at 
the end of a baiting. Five against one is long odds; but 
two against four is better, and by my finger-bones ! Squire 
Nigel and I leave this room together, be it on our feet 
or no." 

The formidable appearance of this ally and his high 
reputation among his fellows gave a further chill to the 
lukewarm ardor of the attack. Aylward's left arm was 
passed through his strung bow, and he was known from 
Woolmer Forest to the Weald as the quickest, surest archer 
that ever dropped a running deer at ten-score paces. 

" Nay, Baddlesmere, hold your fingers from your string- 
case, or I may chance to give your drawing hand a two 
months' rest," said Aylward. " Swords, if you will, com- 
rades, but no man strings his bow till I have loosed mine." 

Yet the angry hearts of both Abbot and sacrist rose 
higher with a fresh obstacle. 

" This is an ill day for your father, Franklin Aylward, 
who holds the tenancy of Crooksbury," said the sacrist. 
" He will rue it that ever he begot a son who will lose him 
his acres and his steading." 

" My father is a bold yeoman, and would rue it ever- 
more that ever his son should stand by while foul work was 
afoot," said Aylward stoutly. " Fall on, comrades ! We 
are waiting." 

Encouraged by promises of reward if they should fall 
in the service of the Abbey, and by threats of penalties if 
they should hold back, the four archers were about to close, 
when a singular interruption gave an entirely new turn to 
the proceedings. 

At the door of the chapter-house, while these fiery doings 
had been afoot, there had assembled a mixed crowd of lay 
brothers, servants and varlets who had watched the devel- 
opment of the drama with the interest and delight with 
which men hail a sudden break in a dull routine. Suddenly 
there was an agitation at the back of this group, then a 
swirl in the center, and finally the front rank was violently 



Tried by the Abbot 53 

thrust aside, and through the gap there emerged a strange 
and whimsical figure, who from the instant of his appear- 
ance dominated both chapter-house and Abbey, monks, 
prelates and archers, as if he were their owner and their 
master. 

He was a man somewhat above middle age, with thin 
lemon-colored hair, a curling mustache, a tufted chin of 
the same hue, and a high craggy face, all running to a great 
hook of the nose, like the beak of an eagle. His skin was 
tanned a brown-red by much exposure to the wind and sun. 
In height he was tall, and his figure was thin and loose- 
jointed, but stringy and hard-bitten. One eye was entirely 
covered by its lid, which lay flat over an empty socket, but 
the other danced and sparkled with a most roguish light, 
darting here and there with a twinkle of humor and criti- 
cism and intelligence, the whole fire of his soul bursting 
through that one narrow cranny. 

His dress was as noteworthy as his person. A rich pur- 
ple doublet and cloak was marked on the lapels with a 
strange scarlet device shaped like a wedge. Costly lace hung 
round his shoulders, and amid its soft folds there smoldered 
the dull red of a heavy golden chain. A knight's belt at 
his waist and a knight's golden spurs twinkling from his 
doeskin riding-boots proclaimed his rank, and on the wrist 
of his left gauntlet there sat a demure little hooded falcon 
of a breed which in itself was a mark of the dignity of 
the owner. Of weapons he had none, but a mandolin was 
slung by a black silken band over his back, and the high 
brown end projected above his shoulder. Such was the 
man, quaint, critical, masterful, with a touch of what is 
formidable behind it, who now surveyed the opposing 
groups of armed men and angry monks with an eye which 
commanded their attention. 

"pjfPWtez!" said he, in a lisping French. " Excusez, 
mes amis! I had thought to arouse from prayer or medi- 
tation, but never have I seen such a holy exercise as this 
under an abbey's roof, with swords for breviaries and arch- 
ers for acolytes. I fear that I have come amiss, and yet I 
ride on an errancf from one who permits no delay/' 

The Abbot, and possibly the sacrist also, had begun to 



54 Sir Nigel 

realize that events had gone a great deal farther than they 
had intended, and that without an extreme scandal it was 
no easy matter for them to save their dignity and the good 
name of Waverley. Therefore, in spite of the debonair, not 
to say disrespectful, bearing of the newcomer, they rejoiced 
at his appearance and intervention. 

" I am the Abbot of Waverley, fair son," said the prelate. 
"If your message deal with a public matter it may be fitly 
repeated in the chapter-house ; if not I will give you audience 
in my own chamber; for it is clear to me that you are a 
gentle man of blood and coat-armor who would not lightly 
break in upon the business of our court a business which, 
as you have remarked, is little welcome to men of peace like 
myself and the brethren of the rule of Saint Bernard." 

" Pardieu! Father Abbot," said the stranger. "One 
had but to glance at you and your men to see that the busi- 
ness was indeed little to your taste, and it may be even less 
so when I say that rather than see this young person in 
the window, who hath a noble bearing, further molested by 
these archers, I will myself adventure my person on his 
behalf." 

The Abbot's smile turned to a frown at these frank 
words. " It would become you better, sir, to deliver the 
message of which you say that you are the bearer, than to 
uphold a prisoner against the rightful judgment of a court." 

The stranger swept the court with his questioning eye. 
"The message is not for you, good father Abbot. It is 
for one whom I know not. I have been to his house, and 
they have sent me hither. The name is Nigel Loring." 

" It is for me, fair sir." 

"I had thought as much. I knew your father, Eustace 
Loring, and though he would have made two of you, yet 
he has left his stamp plain enough upon your face." 

:< You ^ know not the truth of this matter," said the 
Abbot. " If you are a loyal man, you will stand aside, for 
this young man hath grievously offended against the law, 
and it is for the King's lieges to give us their support." 

" And you have haled him up for judgment," cried the 
stranger with much amusement. " It is as though a rook- 
ery sat in judgment upon a falcon. I warrant that you 



Tried by the Abbot 55 

have found it easier to judge than to punish. Let me tell 
you, father Abbot, that this standeth not aright. When 
powers such as these were given to the like of you, they 
were given that you might check a brawling underling or 
correct a drunken woodman, and not that you might drag 
the best blood in England to your bar and set your archers 
on him if he questioned your findings." 

The Abbot was little used to hear such words of reproof 
uttered in so stern a voice under his own abbey roof and 
before his listening monks. " You may perchance find that 
an Abbey court has more powers than you wot of, Sir 
Knight/' said he, " if knight indeed you be who are so un- 
courteous and short in your speech. Ere we go further, I 
would ask your name and style ? " 

The stranger laughed. " It is easy to see that you are in- 
deed men of peace," said he proudly. " Had I shown this 
sign," and he touched the token upon his lapels, " whether 
on shield or pennon, in the marches of France or Scotland, 
there is not a cavalier but would have known the red pile 
of Chandos." 

Chandos, John Chandos, the flower of English chivalry, 
the pink of knight-errantry, the hero already of fifty des- 
perate enterprises, a man known and honored from end to 
end of Europe! Nigel gazed at him as one who sees a 
vision. The archers stood back abashed, while the monks 
crowded closer to stare at the famous soldier of the French 
wars. The Abbot abated his tone, and a smile came to his 
angry face. 

" We are indeed men of peace, Sir John, and little skilled 
in warlike blazonry," said he ; " yet stout as are our Abbey 
walls, they are not so thick that the fame of your exploits 
has not passed through them and reached our ears. If it 
be your pleasure to take an interest in this young and mis- 
guided Squire, it is not for us to thwart your kind intention 
or to withhold such grace as you request. I am glad indeed 
that he hath one who can set him so fair an example for a 
friend." 

" I thank you for your courtesy, good father Abbot," 
said Chandos carelessly. " This young Squire has, how- 
ever, a better friend than myself, one who is kinder to those 



56 Sir Nigel 

he loves and more terrible to those he hates. It is from 
him I bear a message." 

" I pray you, fair and honored sir," said Nigel, " that you 
will tell me what is the message that you bear." 

" The message, mon ami, is that your friend comes into 
these parts and would have a night's lodging at the manor- 
house of Tilford for the love and respect that he bears your 
family." 

" Nay, he is most welcome," said Nigel, " and yet I hope 
that he is one who can relish a soldier's fare and sleep under 
a humble roof, for indeed we can but give our best, poor 
as it is." 

" He is indeed a soldier and a good one," Chandos an- 
swered, laughing, " and I warrant he has slept in rougher 
quarters than Tilford Manor-house." 

" I have few friends, fair sir," said Nigel, with a puz- 
zled face. " I pray you give me this gentleman's name." 

" His name is Edward." 

" Sir Edward Mortimer of Kent, perchance, or is it Sir 
Edward Brocas of whom the Lady Ermyntrude talks ? " 

" Nay, he is known as Edward only, and if you ask a 
second name it is Plantagenet, for he who comes to seek the 
shelter of your rcof is your liege lord and mine, the King's 
high majesty, Edward of England." 



VI 

IN WHICH LADY ERMYNTRUDE OPENS 
THE IRON COFFER 

AS in a dream Nigel heard these stupendous and 
incredible words. As in a dream also he had a 
vision of a smiling and conciliatory Abbot, of an 
obsequious sacrist, and of a band of archers who cleared a 
path for him and for the King's messenger through the 
motley crowd who had choked the entrance of the Abbey 
court. A minute later he was walking by the side of Chan- 
dos through the peaceful cloister, and in front in the open 
archway of the great gate was the broad yellow road be- 
tween its borders of green meadow-land. The spring air 
was the sweeter and the more fragrant for that chill dread 
of dishonor and captivity which had so recently frozen his 
ardent heart. He had already passed the portal when a 
hand plucked at his sleeve and he turned to find himself 
confronted by the brown honest face and hazel eyes of the 
archer who had interfered in his behalf. 

" Well," said Aylward, " what have you to say to me, 
young sir ? " 

" What can I say, my good fellow, save that I thank you 
with all my heart ? By Saint Paul ! if you had been my 
blood brother you could not have stood by me more stoutly." 

" Nay ! but this is not enough." 

Nigel colored with vexation, and the more so as Chandos 
was listening with his critical smile to their conversation. 
"If you had heard what was said in the court," said he, "you 
would understand that I am not blessed at this moment 
with much of this world's gear. The black death and the 
monks have between them been heavy upon our estate. 
Willingly would I give you a handful of gold for your assist- 
ance, since that is what you seem to crave; but indeed I 

57 



5 8 Sir Nigel 

have it not, and so once more I say that you must be satis- 
fied with my thanks." 

" Your gold is nothing to me," said Aylward shortly, 
" nor would you buy my loyalty if you filled my wallet with 
rose nobles, so long as you were not a man after my own 
heart. But I have seen you back the yellow horse, and I 
have seen you face the Abbot of Waverley, and you are such 
a master as I would very gladly serve if you have by chance 
a place for such a man. I have seen your following, and 
I doubt not that they were stout fellows in your grand- 
father's time; but which of them now would draw a bow- 
string to his ear? Through you I have left the service of 
the Abbey of Waverley, and where can I look now for a 
post? If I stay here I am all undone like a fretted bow- 
string." 

" Nay, there can be no difficulty there," said Chandos. 
" Pardieu! a roistering, swaggering dare-devil . archer is 
worth his price on the French border. There are two hun- 
dred such who march behind my own person, and I would 
ask nothing better than to see you among them." 

" I thank you, noble sir, for your offer," said Aylward, 
" and I had rather follow your banner than many another 
one, for it is well known that it goes ever forward, and I 
have heard enough of the wars to know that there are small 
pickings for the man who lags behind. Yet, if the Squire 
will have me, I would choose to fight under the five roses 
of Loring, for though I was born in the hundred of Ease- 
bourne and the rape of Chichester, yet I have grown up 
and learned to use the longbow in these parts, and as the 
free son of a free franklin I had rather serve my own neigh- 
bor than a stranger." 

" My good fellow," said Nigel, " I have told you that I 
could in no wise reward you for such service." 

" If you will but take me to the wars I will see to my 
own reward," said Aylward. " Till then I ask for none, 
save a corner of your table and six feet of your floor, for 
it is certain that the only reward I would get from the 
Abbey for this day's work would be the scourge for my back 
and the stocks for my ankles. Samkin Aylward is your 
man, Squire Nigel, from this hour on, and by these ten 



The Iron Coffer 59 

finger-bones he trusts the Devil will fly away with him if 
ever he gives you cause to regret it ! " So saying he raised 
his hand to his steel cap in salute, slung his great yellow 
bow over his back, and followed on some paces in the rear 
of his new master. 

" Pardieu! I have arrived a la bonne heure" said Chan- 
dos. " I rode from Windsor and came to your manor- 
house, to find it empty save for a fine old dame, who told 
me of your troubles. From her I walked across to the 
Abbey, and none too soon, for what with cloth-yard shafts 
for your body, and bell, book and candle for your soul, it 
was no very cheerful outlook. But here is the very dame 
herself, if I mistake not." 

It was indeed the formidable figure of the Lady Ermyn- 
trude, gaunt, bowed and leaning on her staff, which had 
emerged from the door of the manor-house and advanced 
to greet them. She croaked with laughter, and shook her 
stick at the great building as she heard of- the discomfiture 
of the Abbey court. Then she led the way into the hall 
where the best which she could provide had been laid out 
for their illustrious guest. There was Chandos blood in 
her own veins, traceable back through the de Greys, de 
Multons, de Valences, de Montagues and other high and 
noble strains, so that the meal had been eaten and cleared 
before she had done tracing the network of intermarriages 
and connections, with quarterings, impalements, lozenges 
and augmentations by which the blazonry of the two fam- 
ilies might be made to show a common origin. Back to 
the Conquest and before it there was not a noble family- 
tree every twig and bud of which was not familiar to the 
Dame Ermyntrude. 

And now when the trestles were cleared and the three 
were left alone in the hall, Chandos broke his message to 
the lady. " King Edward hath ever borne in mind that 
noble knight your son Sir Eustace," said he. " He will 
journey to Southampton next week, and I am his harbinger. 
He bade me say, noble and honored lady, that he would 
come from Guildford in any easy stage so that he might 
spend one night under your roof." 

The old dame flushed with pleasure, and then turned 



60 Sir Nigel 

white with vexation at the words. " It is in truth great 
honor to the house of Loring," said she, " yet our roof is 
now humble and, as you have seen, our fare is plain. The 
King knows not that we are so poor. I fear lest we seem 
churlish and niggard in his eyes." 

But Chandos reasoned away her fears. The King's 
retinue would journey on to Farnham Castle. There were 
no ladies in his party. Though he was King, still he was 
a hardy soldier, and cared little for his ease. In any case, 
since he had declared his coming, they must make the best 
of it. Finally, with all delicacy, Chandos offered his own 
purse if it would help in the matter. But already the Lady 
Ermyntrude had recovered her composure. 

" Nay, fair kinsman, that may -not be," sa. jd h e - " I 
will make such preparation as I may for the King. He 
will bear in mind that if the fyouse of Loring can give noth- 
ing else, they have always held their blood and their lives 
at his disposal." 

Chandos was to ride on to Farnham Castle and beyond, 
but he expressed his desire to have a warm bath ere he left 
Tilford, for like most of his fellow-knights, he was rnuch 
addicted to simmering in the hottest water that he could 
possibly endure. The bath therefore, a high hooped 
arrangement like a broader but shorter churn, was carried 
into the privacy of the guest-chamber, and thither it was 
that Nigel was summoned to hold him company while he 
stewed and sweltered in his tub. 

Nigel perched himself upon the side of the high bed, 
swinging his legs over the edge and gazing with wonder 
and amusement at the quaint face, the ruffled yellow hair, 
and the sinewy shoulders of the famous warrior, dimly seen 
amid a pillar of steam. He was in a mood for talk; so 
Nigel with eager lips plied him with a thousand questions 
about the wars, hanging upon every word which came 
back to him, like those of the ancient oracles, out of the 
mist and the cloud. To Chandos himself, the old sol- 
dier for whom war had lost its freshness, it was a re- 
newal of his own ardent youth to listen to Nigel's rapid 
questions and to mark the rapt attention with which he 
listened. 



The Iron Coffer 61 

" Tell me of the Welsh, honored sir," asked the Squire. 
" What manner of soldiers are the Welsh ? " 

" They are very valiant men of war," said Chandos, 
splashing about in his tub. " There is good skirmishing 
to be had in their valleys if you ride with a small following. 
They flare up like a furze-bush in the flames, but if for a 
short space you may abide the heat of it, then there is . a 
chance that it may be cooler." 

" And the Scotch ? " asked Nigel. " You have made war 
upon them also, as I understand." 

" The Scotch knights have no masters in the world, and 
he who can hold his own with the best of them, be it a 
Douglas, a Murray or a Seaton, has nothing more to learn. 
Though you be a hard man, you will always meet as hard 
a one if you ride northward. If the Welsh be like the 
furze fire, then, pardieu! the Scotch are the peat, for they 
will smolder and you will never come to the end of them. 
I have had many happy hours on the marches of Scotland, 
for even if there be no war the Percies of Alnwick or the 
Governor of Carlisle can still raise a little bickering with 
the border clans." 

" I bear in mind that my father was wont to say that they 
were very stout spearmen." 

" No better in the world, for the spears are twelve foot 
long and they hold them in very thick array ; but their arch- 
ers are weak, save only the men of Ettrick and Selkirk 
who come from the forest. I pray you to open the lattice, 
Nigel, for the steam is overthick. Now in Wales it is 
the spearmen who are weak, and there are no archers in 
these islands like the men of Gwent with their bows of 
elm, which shoot with such power that I have known a 
cavalier to have his horse killed when the shaft had passed 
through his mail breeches, his thigh and his saddle. And 
yet, what is the most strongly shot arrow to these new balls 
of iron driven by the fire-powder which will crush a man's 
armor as an egg is crushed by a stone ? Our fathers knew 
them not." 

"Then the better for us," cried Nigel, "since there is 
at least one honorable venture which is all our own." 

Chandos chuckled and turned upon the flushed youth a 



62 Sir Nigel 

twinkling and sympathetic eye. " You have a fashion of 
speech which carries me back to the old men whom I met in 
my boyhood," said he. " There were some of the real old 
knight-errants left in those days, and they spoke as you 
do. Young as you are, you belong to another age. Where 
got you that trick of thought and word ? " 

" I have had only one to teach me, the Lady Ermyn- 
trude." 

" Pardieu ! she has trained a proper young hawk ready 
to stoop at a lordly quarry," said Chandos. " I would that 
I had the first unhooding of you. Will you not ride with 
me to the wars ? " 

The tears brimmed over from Nigel's eyes, and he wrung 
the gaunt hand extended from the bath. " By Saint Paul ! 
what could I ask better in the world? I fear to leave her, 
for she has none other to care for her. But if it can in 
any way be arranged " 

" The King's hand may smooth it out. Say no more 
until he is here. But if you wish to ride with me " 

" What could man wish for more ? Is there a Squire in 
England who would not serve under the banner of Chandos ! 
Whither do you go, fair sir? And when do you go? Is 
it to Scotland? Is it to Ireland? Is it to France? But 
alas, alas ! " 

The eager face had clouded. For the instant he had for- 
gotten that a suit of armor was as much beyond his means 
as a service of gold plate. Down in a twinkling came all 
his high hopes to the ground. Oh, these sordid material 
things, which come between our dreams and their fulfil- 
ment! The Squire of such a knight must dress with the 
best. Yet all the fee simple of Tilford would scarce suffice 
for one suit of plate. 

Chandos, with his quick wit and knowledge of the 
world, had guessed the cause of this sudden change. " If 
you fight under my banner it is for me to find the weapons," 
said he. ' Nay, I will not be denied." 

But Nigel shook his head sadly. " It may not be. The 
Lady Ermyntrude would sell this old house and every acre 
round it, ere she would permit rne to accept this gracious 
bounty which you offer, Yet I do not despair, for only last; 



The Iron Coffer 63 

week I won for myself a noble war-horse for which I paid 
not a penny, so perchance a suit of armor may also come 
my way." 

" And how won you the horse ? " 
" It was given me by the monks of Waverley." 
" This is wonderful. Pardieu ! I should have expected, 
from what I had seen, that they would have given you little 
save their malediction." 

" They had no use for the horse, and they gave it to me." 
" Then we have only to find some one who has no use 
for a suit of armor and will give it to you. Yet I trust 
that you will think better of it and let me, since that 
good lady proves that I am your kinsman, fit you for the 
wars." 

" I thank you, noble sir, and if I should turn to anyone 
it would indeed be to you ; but there are other ways which 
I would try first. But I pray you, good Sir John, to tell 
me of some of your noble spear-runnings against the 
French, for the whole land rings with the tale of your deeds 
and I have heard that in one morning three champions have 
fallen before your lance. Was it not so ? " 

" That it was indeed so these scars upon my body will 
prove ; but these were the follies of my youth." 

" How can you call them follies ? Are they not the means 
by which honorable advancement may be gained and one's 
lady exalted ? " 

" It is right that you should think so, Nigel. At your 
age a man should have a hot head and a high heart. I also 
had both and fought for my lady's glove or for my vow 
or for the love of fighting. But as one 'grows older and 
commands men one has other things to think of. One 
thinks less of one's own honor and more of the safety of 
the army. It is no.t your own spear, your own sword, your 
own arm, which will turn the tide of fight ; but a cool head 
may save a stricken field. He who knows when his horse- 
men should charge and when they should fight on foot, he 
who can mix his archers with his men-at-arms in such a 
fashion that each can support the other, he who can hold 
up his reserve and pour it into the battle when it may 
turn the tide, he who has a quick eve. for boggy land and 



64 Sir Nigel 

broken ground that is the man who is of more worth to 
an army than Roland, Oliver and all the paladins." 

" Yet if his knights fail him, honored sir, all his head- 
work will not prevail." 

" True enough, Nigel ; so may every Squire ride to the 
wars with his soul on fire, as yours is now. But I must 
linger no longer, for the King's service must be done. I 
will dress, and when I have bid farewell to the noble Dame 
Ermyntrude I will on to Farnham ; but you will see me here 
again on the day that the King comes." 

So Chandos went his way that evening, walking his horse 
through the peaceful lanes and twanging his citole as he 
went, for he loved music and was famous for his merry 
songs. The cottagers came from their huts and laughed and 
clapped as the rich full voice swelled and sank to the cheery 
tinkling of the strings. There were few who saw him pass 
that would have guessed that the quaint one-eyed man with 
the yellow hair was the toughest fighter and craftiest man 
of war in Europe. Once only, as he entered Farnham, an 
old broken man-at-arms ran out in his rags and clutched 
at his horse as a dog gambols found his master. Chandos 
threw him a kind word and a gold coin as he passed on to 
the castle. 

In the meanwhile young Nigel and the Lady Ermyntrude, 
left alone with their difficulties, looked blankly in each 
other's faces. 

:< The cellar is well nigh empty," said Nigel. " There 
are two firkins of small beer and a tun of canary. How 
can we set such drink before the King and his court ? " 

" We must have some wine of Bordeaux. With that and 
the mottled cow's calf and the fowls and a goose, we can 
set forth a sufficient repast if he stays only for the one night. 
How many will be with him ? " 

" A dozen, at the least." 

The old dame wrung her hands in despair. " Nay, take 
it not to heart, dear lady ! " said Nigel. " We have but 
to say the word and the King would stop at Waverley, 
where he and his court would find all that they could 
wish." 

" Never ! " cried the Lady Ermyntrude. " It would be 



The Iron Coffer 65 

shame and disgrace to us forever if the King- were to pass 
our door when he has graciously said that he was fain to 
enter in. Nay, I will do it. Never did I think that I would 
be forced to this, but I know that he would wish it, and 
I will do it." 

She went to the old iron coffer, and taking a small key 
from her girdle she unlocked it. The rusty hinges, scream- 
ing shrilly as she threw back the lid, proclaimed how seldom 
it was that she had penetrated into the sacred recesses of 
her treasure-chest. At the top were some relics of old 
finery: a silken cloak spangled with golden stars, a coif of 
silver filigree, a roll of Venetian lace. Beneath were little 
packets tied in silk which the old lady handled with tender 
care : a man's hunting-glove, a child's shoe, a love-knot done 
in faded green ribbon, some letters in rude rough script, 
and a vernicle of Saint Thomas. Then from the very 
bottom of the box she drew three objects, swathed in silken 
cloth, which she uncovered and laid upon the table. The 
one was a bracelet of rough gold studded with uncut rubies, 
the second was a gold salver, and the third was a high 
goblet of the same metal. 

" You have heard me speak of these, Nigel, but never 
before have you seen them, for indeed I have not opened 
the hutch for fear that we might be tempted in our great 
need to turn them into money. I have kept them out of 
my sight and even out of my thoughts. But now it is 
the honor of the house which calls, and even these must 
go. This goblet was that which my husband, Sir Nele 
Loring, won after the intaking of Belgrade when he and 
his comrades held the lists from matins to vespers against 
the flower of the French chivalry. The salver was given 
him by the Earl of Pembroke in memory of his valor upon 
the field of Falkirk." 

" And the bracelet, dear lady? " 

" You will not laugh, Nigel? " 

" Nay, why should I laugh? " 

" The bracelet was the prize for the Queen of Beauty 
which was given to me before all the high-born ladies of 
England by Sir Nele Loring a month before our marriage 
the Queen of Beauty, Nigel I, old and twisted, as you 



66 Sir Nigel 

see me. Five strong men went down before his lance ere 

he won that trinket for me. And now in my last years " 

" Nay, dear and honored lady, we will not part with it." 
" Yes, Nigel, he would have it so. I can hear his whisper 
in my ear. Honor to him was everything the rest noth- 
ing. Take it from me, Nigel, ere my heart weakens. To- 
morrow you will ride with it to Guildford; you will see 
Thorold the goldsmith; and you will raise enough money 
to pay for all that we shall need for the King's coming." 
She turned her face away to hide the quivering of her 
wrinkled features, and the crash of the iron lid covered 
the sob which burst from her overwrought soul. 



VII 

HOW NIGEL WENT MARKETING TO GUILDFORD 

IT was on a bright June morning that young Nigel, 
with youth and springtime to make his heart light, 
rode upon his- errand from Tilford to Guildford town. 
Beneath him was his great yellow war-horse, caracoling 
and curveting as he went, as blithe and free of spirit as 
his master. In all England one would scarce have found 
upon that morning so high-mettled and so debonair a 
pair. The sandy road wound through groves of fir, where 
the breeze came soft and fragrant with resinous gums, 
or over heathery downs, which rolled away to north and 
to south, vast and untenanted, for on the uplands the 
soil was poor and water scarce. Over Crooksbury Com- 
mon he passed, and then across the great Heath of Put- 
tenham, following a sandy path which wound amid the 
bracken and the heather, for -he meant to strike the Pilgrims' 
Way where it turned eastward from Farnham and from 
Scale. As he rode he continually felt his saddle-bag with 
his hand, for in it, securely strapped, he had placed the 
precious treasures of the Lady Ermyntrude. As he saw 
the grand tawny neck tossing before him, and felt the easy 
heave of the great horse and heard the muffled drumming 
of his hoofs, he could have sung and shouted with the joy 
of living. 

Behind him, upon the little brown pony which had been 
Nigel's former mount, rode Samkin Aylward the bowman, 
who had taken upon himself the duties of personal attend- 
ant and body-guard. His great shoulders and breadth of 
frame seemed dangerously top-heavy upon the tiny steed, 
but he ambled along, whistling a merry lilt and as light- 
hearted as his master. There was no countryman who had 
not a nod and no woman who had not a smile for the jovial 
bowman, who rode for the most part with his face over 



68 Sir Nigel 

his shoulder, staring at the last petticoat which had passed 
him. Once only he met with a harsher greeting. It was 
from a tall, white-headed, red-faced man whom they met 
upon the moor. 

" Good-morrow, dear fatherl " cried Aylward. " How 
is it with you at Crooksbury ? And how are the new black 
cow and the ewes from Alton and Mary the dairymaid and 
all your gear ? " 

" It ill becomes you to ask, you ne'er-do-weel," said the 
old man. " You have angered the monks of Waverley, 
whose tenant I am, and they would drive me out of my 
farm. Yet there are three more years to run, and do what 
they may I will bide till then. But little did I think that 
I should lose my homestead through you, Samkin, and big 
as you are I would knock the dust out of that green jerkin 
with a good hazel switch if I had you at Crooksbury." 

!t Then you shall do it to-morrow morning, good father, 
for I will come and see you then. But indeed I did not 
do more at Waverley than you would have done yourself. 
Look me in the eye, old hot-head, and tell me if you would 
have stood by while the last Loring look at him as he 
rides with his head in the air and his soul in the clouds 
was shot down before your very eyes at the bidding of 
that fat monk! If you would, then I disown you as my 
father." 

" Nay, Samkin, if it was like that, then perhaps what 
you did was not so far amiss. But it is hard to lose the 
old farm when my heart is buried deep in the good brown 
soil." 

' Tut, man ! there are three years to run, and what may 
not happen in three years? Before that time I shall have 
gone to the wars, and when I have opened a French strong 
box or two you can buy the good brown soil and snap 
your fingers at Abbot John and his bailiffs. Am I not 
as proper a man as Tom Withstaff of Churt? And yet 
he came back after six months with his pockets full of rose 
nobles and a French wench on either arm." 

1 God preserve us from the wenches, Samkin ! But in- 
deed I think that if there is money to be gathered you are 
as likely to get your fist full as any man who goes to the 



Marketing to Guildford 69 

war. But hasten, lad, hasten! Already your young mas- 
ter is over the brow." 

Thus admonished, the archer waved his gauntleted hand 
to his father, and digging his heels into the sides of his 
little pony soon drew up with the Squire. Nigel glanced 
over his shoulder and slackened speed until the pony's head 
was up to his saddle. 

" Have I not heard, archer," said he, " that an outlaw 
has been loose in these parts ? " 

" It is true, fair sir. He was villain to Sir Peter Mande- 
ville, but he broke his bonds and fled into the forests. Men 
call him the ' Wild' Man of Puttenham.' " 

" How comes it that he has not been hunted down? If 
the man be a draw-latch and a robber it would be an honor- 
able deed to clear the country of such an evil." 

" Twice the sergeants-at-arms from Guildford have come 
out against him, but the fox has many earths, and it would 
puzzle you to get him out of them." 

" By Saint Paul ! were my errand not a pressing one I 
would be tempted to turn aside and seek him. Where lives 
he, then?" 

" There is a great morass beyond Puttenham, and across 
it there are caves in which he and his people lurk." 

" His people ? He hath a band ? " 

" There are several with him." 

" It sounds a most honorable enterprise," said Nigel. 
" When the King hath come and gone we will spare a day 
for the outlaws of Puttenham. I fear there is little chance 
for us to see them on this journey." 

" They prey upon the pilgrims who pass along the Win- 
chester Road, and they are well loved by the folk in these 
parts, for they rob none of them and have an open hand 
for all who will help them." 

" It is right easy to have an open hand with the money 
that you have stolen," said Nigel ; " but I fear that they 
will not try to rob two men with swords at their girdles 
like you and me, so we shall have no profit from them." 

They had passed over the wild moors and had come down 
now into the main road by which the pilgrims from the 
west of England made their way to the national shrine at 



Sir Nigel 



Canterbury. It passed from Winchester, and up the beauti- 
ful valley of the Itchen until it reached Farnham, where it 
forked into two branches, one of which ran along the Hog's 
Back, while the second wound to the south and came out 
at Saint Catharine's Hill where stands the Pilgrim shrine, 
a gray old ruin now, but once so august, so crowded and 
so affluent. It was this second branch upon which Nigel 
and Aylward found themselves as they rode to Guildford. 

No one, as it chanced, was going the same way as them- 
selves, but they met one large drove of pilgrims returning 
from their journey with pictures of Saint Thomas and 
snails' shells or little leaden ampullae in their hats and bun- 
dles of purchases over their shoulders. They were a grimy, 
ragged, travel-stained crew, the men walking, the women 
borne on asses. Man and beast, they limped along as if 
it would be a glad day when they saw their homes once 
more. These and a few beggars or minstrels, who crouched 
among the heather on either side of the track in the hope 
of receiving an occasional farthing from the passer-by, 
were the only folk they met until they had reached the vil- 
lage of Puttenham. Already there was a hot sun and just 
breeze enough to send the dust flying down the road, so 
they were glad to clear their throats with a glass of beer 
at the ale-stake in the village, where the fair alewife gave 
Nigel a cold farewell because he had no attentions for her, 
and Aylward a box on the ear because he had too many. 

On the farther side of Puttenham the road runs through 
thick woods of oak and beech, with a tangled undergrowth 
of fern and bramble. Here they met a patrol of sergeants- 
at-arms, tall fellows, well-mounted, clad in studded-leather 
caps and tunics, with lances and swords. .They walked 
their horses slowly on the shady side of tlie road, and 
stopped as the travelers came up, to ask if they had been 
molested on the way. 

" Have a care," they added, " for the ' Wild Man ' and 
his wife are out. Only yesterday they slew a merchant from 
the west and took a hundred crowns." 

" His wife, you say ? " 

"Yes, she is ever at his side, and has saved him many 
a time, for if he has the strength it is she who has the wit. 



Marketing to Guildford 71 

I hope to see their heads together upon the green grass 
one of these mornings." 

The patrol passed downward toward Farnham, and so, 
as it proved, away from the robbers, who had doubtless 
watched them closely from the dense brushwood which 
skirted the road. Coming round a curve, Nigel and Ayl- 
ward were aware of a tall and graceful woman who sat, 
wringing her hands and weeping bitterly, upon the bank by 
the side of the track. At such a sight of beauty in distress 
Nigel pricked Pommers with the spur and in three bounds 
was at the side of the unhappy lady. 

" What ails you, fair dame ? " he asked. " Is there any 
small matter in which I may stand your friend, or is it 
possible that anyone hath so hard a heart as to do you an 
injury? " 

She rose and turned upon him a face full of hope and 
entreaty. " Oh, save my poor, poor father ! " she cried. 
" Have you perchance seen the way- wardens ? They passed 
us, and I fear they are beyond reach." 

" Yes, they have ridden onward, but we may serve as 
well/' 

" Then hasten, hasten, I pray you ! Even now they may 
be doing him to death. They have dragged him into yon- 
der grove and I have heard his voice growing ever weaker 
in the distance. Hasten, I implore you ! " 

Nigel sprang from his horse and tossed the rein to Ayl- 
ward. 

" Nay, let us go together. How many robbers were there, 
lady?" 

" Two stout fellows." 

" Then I come also." 

" Nay, it is not possible," said Nigel. " The wood is 
too thick for horses, and we cannot leave them in the road." 

" I will guard them," cried the lady. 

" Pommers is not so easily held. Do you bide here, Ayl- 
ward, until you hear from me. Stir not, I command you ! " 
So saying, Nigel, with the light of adventure gleaming in 
his joyous eyes, drew his sword and plunged swiftly into 
the forest. 

Far and fast he ran, from glade to glade, breaking 



72 Sir Nigel 

through the bushes, springing over the brambles, light as 
a young deer, peering this way and that, straining his ears 
for a sound, and catching only the cry of the wood-pigeons. 
Still on he went, with the constant thought of the weeping 
woman behind and of the captured man in front. It was 
not until he was footsore and out of breath that he stopped 
with his hand to his side, and considered that his own busi- 
ness had still to be done, and that It was time once more 
that he should seek the road to Guildford. 

Meantime Aylward had found his own rough means of 
consoling the woman in the road, who stood sobbing with 
her face against the side of Pommers' saddle. 

" Nay, weep not, my pretty one," said he. ' It brings the 
tears to my own eyes to see them stream from thine." 

" Alas ! good archer, he was the best of fathers, so gentle 
and so kind! Had you but known him, you must have 
loved him." 

;< Tut, tut ! he will suffer no scathe. Squire Nigel will 
bring him back to you anon." 

" No, no, I shall 'never see him more. Hold me, archer, 
or I fall!" 

Aylward pressed his ready arm round the supple waist. 
The fainting woman leaned with her hand upon his shoul- 
der. Her pale face looked past him,. and it was <?ome new 
light in her eyes, a flash of expectancy, of triumph, of 
wicked joy, which gave him sudden warning of his danger. 

He shook her off and sprang to one side, but only just in 
time to avoid a crashing blow from a great club in the hands 
of a man even taller and stronger than himself. He had 
one quick vision of great white teeth clenched in grim 
ferocity, a wilci flying beard and blazing wild-beast eyes. 
The next instant he had closed, ducking his head beneath 
another swing of that murderous cudgel. 

With his arms round the robber's burly body and his 
face buried in his bushy beard, Aylward gasped and strained 
and heaved. Back and forward in the dusty road the two 
men stamped and staggered, a grim wrestling-match, with 
life for the prize. Twice the great strength of the outlaw 
had Aylward nearly down, and twice with his greater youth 
and skill the archer restored his grip and his balance. Then 




HASTEN, HASTEN, I PRAY You ! 



Marketing to Guildford 73 

at last his turn came. He slipped his leg behind the other's 
knee, and, giving a mighty wrench, tore him across it. 
With a hoarse shout the outlaw toppled backward and had 
hardly reached the ground before Aylward had his knee 
upon his chest and his short sword deep in his beard and 
pointed to his throat. 

" By these ten finger-bones ! " he gasped, " one more 
struggle and it is your last ! " 

The man lay still enough, for he was half-stunned by the 
crashing fall. Aylward looked round him, but the woman 
had disappeared. At the first blow struck she had van- 
ished into the forest. He began to have fears for his master, 
thinking that he perhaps had been lured into some death- 
trap ; but his forebodings were soon at rest, for Nigel him- 
self came hastening down the road, which he had struck 
some distance from the spot where he left it. 

" By Saint Paul ! " he cried, " who is this man on whom 
you are perched, and where is the lady who has honored 
us so far as to x crave our help ? Alas, that I have been 
unable to find her father ! " 

" As well for you, fair sir," said Aylward, " for I am of 
opinion that her father was the Devil. This woman is, as 
I believe, the wife of the '.Wild Man of Puttenham/ and 
this is the ' Wild Man ' himself who set upon me and tried 
to brain me with his club." 

The outlaw, who had opened his eyes, looked with a 
scowl from his captor to the new-comer. " You are in luck, 
archer," said he, " for I have come to grips with many a 
man, but I cannot call to mind any who have had the bet- 
ter of me." 

" You have indeed the grip of a bear," said Aylward ; 
" but it was a coward deed that your wife should hold me 
while you dashed out my brains with a stick. It is also 
a most villainous thing to lay a snare for wayfarers by ask- 
ing for their pity and assistance, so that it was our own 
soft hearts which brought us into such danger. The next 
who hath real need of our help may suffer for your sins." 

" When the hand of the whole world is against you," said 
the outlaw in a surly voice, "you must fight as best you 
can." 



74. Sir Nigel 

" You well deserve to be hanged, if only because you 
have brought this woman, who is fair and gentle-spoken, 
to such a life," said Nigel. " Let us tie him by the wrist to 
my stirrup leather, Aylward, and we will lead him into 
Guildford." 

The archer drew a spare bowstring from his case and 
had bound the prisoner as directed, when Nigel gave a 
sudden start and cry of alarm. 

" Holy Mary ! " he cried. " Where is the saddle-bag? " 

It had been cut away by a sharp knife. Only the two 
ends of strap remained. Aylward and Nigel stared at each 
other in blank dismay. Then the young Squire shook his 
clenched hands and pulled at his yellow curls in his despair. 

" The Lady Ermyntrude's bracelet ! My grandfather's 
cup!" he cried. "I would have died ere I lost them! 
What can I say to her? I dare not return until I have 
found them. Oh, Aylward, Aylward! how came you to 
let them be taken?" 

The honest archer had pushed back his steel cap and was 
scratching his tangled head. " Nay, I know nothing of 
it. You never said that there was aught of price in the 
bag, else had I kept a better eye upon it. Certes! it was 
not this fellow who took it, since I have never had my 
hands from him. It can only be the woman who fled with 
it while we fought." 

Nigel stamped about the road in his perplexity. " I 
would follow her to the world's end if I knew where I 
could find her, but to search these woods for her is to look 
for a mouse in a wheat-field. Good Saint George, thou 
who didst overcome the Dragon, I pray you by that most 
honorable and knightly achievement that you will be with 
me now! And you also, great Saint Julian, patron of all 
wayfarers in distress ! Two candles shall burn before your 
shrine at Godalming, if you will but bring me back my 
saddle-bag. What would I not give to have it back? " 

" Will you give me my life ? " asked the outlaw. " Prom- 
ise that I go free, and you shall have it back, if it be indeed 
true that my wife has taken it." 

' Nay, I cannot do that," said Nigel. " My honor would 
surely be concerned, since my loss is a private one; but it 



Marketing to Guildford 75 

would be to the public scathe that you should go free. By 
Saint Paul ! it would be an ungentle deed if in order to save 
my own I let you loose upon the gear of a hundred others." 

" I will not ask you to let me loose," said the " Wild 
Man." " If you will promise that my life be spared I will 
restore your bag." 

" I cannot give such a promise, for it will lie with the 
Sheriff and reeves of Guildford." 

" Shall I have your word in my favor ? " 

" That I could promise you, if you will give back the bag, 
though I know not how far my word may avail. But your 
words are vain, for you cannot think that we will be so 
fond as to let you go in the hope that you return ? " 

" I would not ask it," said the " Wild Man," " for I can 
get your bag and yet never stir from the spot where I stand. 
Have I your promise upon your honor and all that you hold 
dear that you will ask for grace ? " 

" You have." 

" And that my wife shall be unharmed ? " 

" I promise it." 

The outlaw laid back his head and uttered a long shrill 
cry like the howl of a wolf. There was a silent pause, and 
then, clear and shrill, there rose the same cry no great 
distance away in the forest. Again the " Wild Man " 
called, and again his mate replied. A third time he sum- 
moned, as the deer bells to the doe in the greenwood. Then 
with a rustle of brushwood and snapping of twigs the 
woman was before them once more, tall, pale, graceful, 
wonderful. She glanced neither at Aylward nor Nigel, but 
ran to the side of her husband. 

" Dear and sweet lord," she cried, " I trust they have 
done you no hurt. I waited by the old ash, and my heart 
sank when you came not." 

" I have been taken at last, wife." 

" Oh, cursed, cursed day ! Let him go, kind, gentle sirs, 
do not take him from me ! " 

" They will speak for me at Guildford," said the " Wild 
Man." " They have sworn it. But hand them first the 
bag that you have taken." 

She drew it out from under her loose cloak. " Here it 



76 Sir Nigel 

is, gentle sir. Indeed it went to my heart to take it, for 
you had mercy upon me in my trouble. But now I am, as 
you see, in real and very sore distress. Will yoti not have 
mercy now? Take ruth on us, fair sir! On my knees I 
beg it of you, most gentle and kindly Squire ! " 

Nigel had clutched his bag, and right glad he was to 
feel that the treasures were all safe within it. " My proffer 
is given," said he. " I will say what I can ; but the issue 
rests with others. I pray you to stand up, for indeed I can- 
not promise more." 

" Then I must be content," said she, rising, with a com- 
posed face. " I have prayed you to take ruth, and indeed 
I can do no more ; but ere I go back to the forest I would 
rede you to be on your guard lest you lose your bag once 
more. Wot you how I took it, archer ? Nay, it was simple 
enough, and may happen again, so I make it clear to you. 
I had this knife in my sleeve, and though it is small it is 
very sharp. I slipped it down like this. Then when I 
seemed to weep with my face against the saddle, I cut 
down like this " 

In an instant she had shorn through the stirrup leather 
which bound her man, and he, diving under the belly of the 
horse, had slipped like a snake into the brushwood. In 
passing he had struck Pommers from beneath, and the great 
horse, enraged and insulted, was rearing high, with two 
men hanging to his bridle. When at last he had calmed 
there was no sign left of the " Wild Man " or of his wife. 
In .vain did Aylward, an arrow on his string, run here and 
there among the great trees and peer down the shadowy 
glades. When he returned he and his master cast a shame- 
faced glance at each other. 

" I trust that we are better soldiers than jailers," said 
Aylward, as he climbed on his pony. 

But Nigel's frown relaxed into a smile. "At least we 
have gained back what we lost," said he. " Here I place it 
on the pommel of my saddle, and I shall not take my eyes 
from it until we are safe in Guildford town." 

So they jogged on together until passing Saint Catha- 
rine's shrine they crossed the winding Wey once more, and 
so found themselves in the steep high street with its heavy- 



Marketing to Guildford 77 

eaved gabled houses, its monkish hospitium upon the left, 
where good ale may still be quaffed, and its great square- 
keeped castle upon the right, no gray and grim skeleton of 
ruin, but very quick and alert, with blazoned banner flying 
free, and steel caps twinkling, from the battlement. A row 
of booths extended from the castle gate to the high street, 
and two doors from the Church of the Trinity was that of 
Thorold the goldsmith, a rich burgess and Mayor of the 
town. 

He looked long and lovingly at the rich rubies and at the 
fine work upon the goblet. Then he stroked his flowing 
gray beard as he pondered whether he should offer fifty 
nobles or sixty, for he knew well that he could sell them 
again for two hundred. If he offered too much his profit 
would be reduced. If he offered too little the youth might 
go as far as London with them, for they were rare and of 
great worth. The young man was ill-clad, and his eyes 
were anxious. Perchance he was hard pressed and was 
ignorant of the value of what he bore. He would sound 
him. 

" These things are old and out of fashion, fair sir," said 
he. " Of the stones I can scarce say if they are of good 
quality or not, but they are dull and rough. Yet, if your 
price be low I may add them to my stock, though indeed 
this booth was made to sell and not to buy. What do 
you ask ? " 

Nigel bent his brows in perplexity. Here was a game 
in which neither his bold heart nor his active limbs could 
help him. It was the new force mastering the old : the man 
of commerce conquering the man of war wearing him 
down and weakening him through the centuries until he 
had him as his bond-servant and his thrall. 

" I know not what to ask, good sir," said Nigel. " It is 
not for me, nor for any man who bears my name, to chaffer 
and to haggle. You know the worth of these things, for 
it is your trade to do so. The Lady Ermyntrude lacks 
money, and we must have it against the King's coming, so 
give me that which is right and just, and we will say no 
more." 

The goldsmith smiled. The business was growing more 



78 Sir Nigel 

simple and more profitable. He had intended to offer 
fifty, but surely it would be sinful waste to give more than 
twenty-five. 

" I shall scarce know what to do with them when I have 
them," said he. " Yet I should not grudge twenty nobles 
if it is a matter in which the King is concerned." 

Nigel's heart turned to lead. This sum would not buy 
one-half what was needful. It was clear that the Lady 
Ermyntrude had overvalued her treasures. Yet he could 
not return empty-handed, so if twenty nobles was the real 
worth, as this good old man assured him, then he must be 
thankful and take it. 

" I am concerned by what you say," said he. " You 
know more of these things than I can do. However, I 
will take " 

" A hundred and fifty," whispered Aylward's voice in 
his ear. 

" A hundred and fifty," said Nigel, only too relieved to 
have found the humblest guide upon these unwonted paths. 

The goldsmith started. This youth was not the simple 
soldier that he had seemed. That frank face, those blue 
eyes, were traps for the unwary. Never had he been more 
taken aback in a bargain. 

" This is fond talk and can lead to nothing, fair sir," said 
he, turning away and fiddling with the keys of his strong 
boxes. " Yet I have no wish to be hard on you. Take my 
outside price, which is fifty nobles." 

" And a hundred," whispered Aylward. 

" And a hundred," said Nigel, blushing at his own greed. 

" Well, well, take a hundred ! " cried the merchant. 
" Fleece me, skin me, leave me a loser, and take for your 
wares the full hundred! " V ' 

" I should be shamed forever if I were to treat you so 
badly," said Nigel. " You have spoken me fair, and I 
would not grind you down. Therefore, I will gladly take 
one hundred " 

" And fifty," whispered Aylward. 

" And fifty," said Nigel. 

" By Saint John of Beverley ! " cried the merchant. " I 
came hither from the North Country, and they are said to 



Marketing to Guildford 79 

be shrewd at a deal in those parts; but I had rather bar- 
gain with a synagogue full of Jews than with you, for all 
your gentle ways. Will you indeed take no less than a hun- 
dred and fifty ? Alas ! you pluck from me my profits of 
a month. It is a fell morning's work for me. I would I 
had never seen you ! " With groans and lamentations he 
paid the gold pieces across the counter, and Nigel, hardly 
able to credit his own good fortune, gathered them into the 
leather saddle-bag. 

A moment later with flushed face he was in the street 
and pouring out his thanks to Aylward. 

" Alas, my fair lord ! the man has robbed us now," said 
the archer. " We could have had another twenty had we 
stood fast." 

" How know you that, good Aylward ? " 

" By his eyes, Squire Loring. I wot I have little store of 
reading where the parchment of a book or the pinching of 
a blazon is concerned, but I can read men's eyes, and I never 
doubted that he would give what he has given." 

The two travelers had dinner at the monk's hospitium, 
Nigel at the high table and Aylward among the common- 
alty. Then again they roamed the high street on business 
intent. Nigel bought taffeta for hangings, wine, preserves, 
fruit, damask table linen and many other articles of need. At 
last he halted before the armorer's shop at the castle-yard, 
staring at the fine suits of plate, the engraved pectorals, 
the plumed helmets, the cunningly jointed gorgets, as a 
child at a sweet-shop. 

" Well, Squire Loring," said Wat the armorer, looking 
sidewise from the furnace where he was tempering a sword- 
blade, " what can I sell you this morning ? I swear to you 
by Tubal Cain, the father of all workers in metal, that you 
might go from end to end of Cheapside and never see a 
better suit than that which hangs from yonder hook ! " 

" And the price, armorer ? " 

" To anyone else, two hundred and fifty rose nobles. To 
you two hundred." 

" And why cheaper to me, good fellow ? " 

" Because I fitted your father also for the wars, and a 
finer suit never went out of my shop. I warrant that it 



80 Sir Nigel 

turned many an edge before he laid it aside. We worked 
in mail in those days, and I had as soon have a well-made 
thick-meshed mail as any plates; but a young- knight will 
be in the fashion like any dame of the court, arid so it must 
be plate now, even though the price be trebled." 

" Your rede is that the mail is as good ? " 

" I am well sure of it." 

" Hearken then, armorer ! I cannot at this moment buy 
a suit of plate, and yet I sorely need steel harness on account 
of a small deed which it is in my mind to do. Now I have 
at my home at Tilford that very suit of mail of which you 
speak, with which my father first rode to the wars. Could 
you not so alter it that it should guard my limbs also ? " 

The armorer looked at Nigel's small upright figure and 
burst out laughing. " You jest, Squire Loring ! The suit 
was made for one who was far above the common stature 
of man." 

"Nay, I jest not. If it will but carry me through one 
spear-running it will have served its purpose." 

The armorer leaned back on his anvil and pondered 
while Nigel stared anxiously at his sooty face. 

" Right gladly would I lend you a suit of plate for this 
one venture, Squire Loring, but I know well that if you 
should be overthrown your harness becomes prize to the 
victor. I am 'a poor man with many children, and I dare 
not risk the loss of it. But as to what you say of the old 
suit of mail, is it indeed in good condition? " 

" Most excellent, save only a.t the neck, which is much 
frayed." 

:< To shorten the limbs is easy. It is but to cut out a 
length of the mail and then loop up the links. But to 
shorten the body nay, that is beyond the armorer's art." 

" It was my last hope. Nay, good armorer, if you have 
indeed served and loved my gallant father, then I beg you 
by his memory that you will help me now." 

The armorer threw down his heavy hammer with a crash 
upon the floor. " It is not only that I loved your father, 
Squire Loring, but it is that I have seen you, half armed 
as you were, ride against the best of them at the Castle tilt- 
yard. Last Martinmas my heart bled for you when I saw 



Marketing to Guildford 81 

how sorry was your harness, and yet you held your own 
against the stout Sir Oliver with his Milan suit. When go 
you to Tilf ord ? " 

" Even now." 

" Heh, Jenkin, fetch out the cob ! " cried the worthy Wat. 
" May my right hand lose its cunning if I do not send you 
into battle in your father's suit! To-morrow I must be 
back in my booth, but to-day I give to you without fee 
and for the sake of the good-will which I bear to your 
house. I will ride with you to Tilford, and before night 
you shall see what Wat can do." 

So it came about that there was a busy evening at the 
old Tilford Manor-house, where the Lady Ermyntrude 
planned and cut and hung the curtains for the hall, and 
stocked her cupboards with the good things which Nigel 
had brought from Guildford. 

Meanwhile the Squire and the armorer sat with their 
heads touching and the old suit of mail with its gorget 
of overlapping plates laid out across their knees. Again 
and again old Wat shrugged his shoulders, as one who has 
been asked to do more than can be demanded from mortal 
man. At last, at a suggestion from the Squire, he leaned 
back in his chair and laughed long and loudly in his bushy 
beard, while the Lady Ermyntrude glared her black dis- 
pleasure at such plebeian merriment. Then taking his 
fine chisel and his hammer from his pouch of tools, the 
armorer, still chuckling at his own thoughts, began to drive 
a hole through the center of the steel tunic. 



VIII 

HOW THE KING HAWKED ON CROOKSBURY 
HEATH 

THE King and his attendants had shaken off the 
crowd who had followed them from Guildford 
along the Pilgrims' Way and now, the mounted 
archers having beaten off the more persistent of the specta- 
tors, they rode at their ease in a long, straggling, glittering 
train over the dark undulating plain of heather. 

In the van was the King himself, for his hawks were 
with him and he had some hope of sport. Edward at that 
time was a well-grown, vigorous man in the very prime of 
his years, a keen sportsman, an ardent gallant and a chival- 
rous soldier. He was a scholar too, speaking Latin, French, 
German, Spanish, and even a little English. 

So much had long been patent to the world, but only 
of recent years had he shown other and more formidable 
characteristics : a restless ambition which coveted his neigh- 
bor's throne, and a wise foresight in matters of commerce, 
which engaged him now in transplanting Flemish weavers 
and sowing the seeds of what for many years was the staple 
trade of England. Each of these varied qualities might 
have been read upon his face. The brow, shaded by a crim- 
son cap of maintenance, was broad and lofty. The large 
brown eyes were ardent and bold. His chin was clean- 
shaven, and the close-cropped dark mustache did not con- 
ceal the strong mouth, firm, proud and kindly, but capable 
of setting tight in merciless ferocity. His complexion was 
tanned to copper by a life spent in field sports or in war, 
and he rode his magnificent black horse carelessly and easily, 
as one who has grown up in the saddle. His own color was 
black also, for his active, sinewy figure was set off by close- 
fitting velvet of that hue, broken only by a belt of gold, and 
by a golden border of open pods of the broom-plant. 

82 



Crooksbury Heath 83 

With his high and noble bearing, his simple yet rich 
attire and his splendid mount, he looked every inch a King. 
The picture of gallant man on gallant horse was completed 
by the noble Falcon of the Isles which fluttered along some 
twelve feet above his head, " waiting on," as it was termed, 
for any quarry which might arise. The second bird of the 
cast was borne upon the gauntleted wrist of Raoul the chief 
falconer in the rear. 

At the right side of the monarch and a little behind him 
rode a youth some twenty years of age, tall, slim and dark, 
with noble aquiline features and keen penetrating eyes which 
sparkled with vivacity and affection as he answered the 
remarks of the King. He was clad in deep crimson diapered 
with gold, and the trappings of his white palfrey were of a 
magnificence which proclaimed the rank of its rider. On 
his face, still free from mustache or beard, there sat a cer- 
tain gravity and majesty of expression which showed that 
young as he was great affairs had been in his keeping and 
that his thoughts and interests were those of the statesman 
and the warrior. That great day when, little more than 
a school-boy, he had led the van of the victorious army 
which had crushed the power of France and Crecy, had 
left this stamp upon his features; but stern as they were 
they had not assumed that tinge of fierceness which in after 
years was to make " The Black Prince " a name of terror 
on the marches of France. Not yet had the first shadow 
of fell disease come to poison his nature ere it struck at 
his life, as he rode that spring day, light and debonair, upon 
the heath of Crooksbury. 

On the left of the King, and so near to him that great 
intimacy was implied, rode a man about his own age, with 
the broad face, the projecting jaw and the flattish nose which 
are often the outward indications of a pugnacious nature. 
His complexion was crimson, his large blue eyes somewhat 
prominent, and his whole appearance full-blooded and 
choleric. He was short, but massively built, and evidently 
possessed of immense strength. His voice, however, when 
he spoke was gentle and lisping, while his manner was quiet 
and courteous. Unlike the King or the Prince, he was clad 
in light armor arid carried a sword by his side and a mace 



8 4 Sir Nigel 

at his saddle-bow, for he was acting as Captain of the 
King's Guard, and a dozen other knights in steel followed 
in the escort. No hardier soldier could Edward have at 
his side, if, as was always possible in those lawless times, 
sudden danger was to threaten, for this was the famous 
knight of Hainault, now naturalized as an Englishman, 
Sir Walter Manny, who bore as high a reputation for 
chivalrous valor and for gallant temerity as Chandos 
himself. 

Behind the knights, who were forbidden to scatter and 
must always follow the King's person, there was a body of 
twenty or thirty hobblers or mounted bowmen, together with 
several squires, unarmed themselves but leading spare horses 
upon which the heavier part of their knights' equipment was 
carried. A straggling tail of falconers, harbingers, varlets, 
body-servants and huntsmen holding hounds in leash com- 
pleted the long and many-colored train which rose and 
dipped on the low undulations of the moor. 

Many weighty things were on the mind of Edward the 
King. There was truce for the moment with France, but it 
was a truce broken by many small deeds of arms, raids, 
surprises and ambushes upon either side, and it was certain 
that it would soon dissolve again into open war. Money 
must be raised, and it was no light matter to raise it, now 
that the Commons had once already voted the tenth lamb 
and the tenth sheaf. Besides, the Black Death had ruined 
the country, the arable land was all turned to pasture, the 
laborer, laughing at statutes, would not work under four- 
pence a day, and all society was chaos. In addition, the 
Scotch were growling over the border, there was the peren- 
nial trouble in half-conquered Ireland, and his allies abroad 
in Flanders and in Brabant were clamoring for the arrears 
of their subsidies. 

All this was enough to make even a victorious monarch 
full of care; but now Edward had thrown it all to the 
winds and was as light-hearted as a boy upon a holiday. 
No thought had he for the dunning of Florentine bankers 
or the vexatious conditions of those busybodies at West- 
minster. He was out with his hawks, and his thoughts and 
his talk should be of nothing else. The varlets beat the 



Crooksbury Heath 85 

heather and bushes as they passed, and whooped loudly as 
the birds flew out. 

" A magpie ! A magpie ! " cried the falconer. 

" Nay, nay, it is not worthy of your talons, my brown- 
eyed queen," said the King, looking up at the great bird 
which flapped from side to side above his head, waiting for 
the whistle which should give her the signal. " The tercels, 
falconer a cast of tercels! Quick, man, quick! Ha! the 
rascal makes for wood! He puts in! Well flown, brave 
peregrine ! He makes his point. Drive him out to thy com- 
rade. Serve him, varlets! Beat the bushes! He breaks! 
He breaks ! Nay, come away then ! You will see Master 
Magpie no more." 

The bird had indeed, with the cunning of its race, flapped 
its way through brushwood and bushes to the thicker woods 
beyond, so that neither the hawk amid the cover nor its 
partner above nor the clamorous beaters could harm it. 
The King laughed at the mischance and rode on. Continu- 
ally birds of various sorts were flushed, and each was pur- 
sued by the appropriate hawk, the snipe by the tercel, the 
partridge by the goshawk, even the lark by the little merlin. 
But the King soon tired of this petty sport and went slowly 
on his way, still with the magnificent silent attendant flap- 
ping above his head. 

" Is she not a noble bird, fair son ? " he asked, glancing 
up as her shadow fell upon him. 

" She is indeed, sire. Surely no finer ever came from the 
isles of the north." 

" Perhaps not, and yet I have had a hawk from Barbary 
as good a footer and a swifter flyer. An Eastern bird in 
yarak has no peer." 

" I had one once from the Holy Land," said de Manny. 
" It was fierce and keen and swift as the Saracens them- 
selves. They say of old Saladin that in his day his breed 
of birds, of hounds and of horses had no equal on earth." 

" I trust, dear father, that the day may come when we 
shall lay our hands on all three," said the Prince, looking 
with shining eyes upon the King. " Is the Holy Land to lie 
forever in the grasp of these unbelieving savages, or the 
Holy Temple to be defiled by their foul presence? Ah ! my 



86 Sir Nigel 

dear and most sweet lord, give to me a thousand lances with 
ten thousand bowmen like those I led at Crecy, and I swear 
to you by God's soul that within a year I will have done 
homage to you for the Kingdom of Jerusalem ! " 

The King laughed as he turned to Walter Manny. " Boys 
will still be boys," said he. 

" The French do not count me such ! " cried the young 
Prince, flushing with anger. 

" Nay, fair son, there is no one sets you at a higher rate 
than your father. But you have the nimble mind and quick 
fancy of youth, turning over from the thing that is half 
done to a further task beyond. How would we fare in Brit- 
tany and Normandy while my young paladin with his lances 
and his bowmen was besieging Ascalon or battering at 
Jerusalem ? " 

" Heaven would help in Heaven's work." 

" From what I have heard of the past," said the King 
dryly, " I cannot see that Heaven has counted for much as 
an ally in these wars of the East. I speak with reverence, 
and yet it is but sooth to say that Richard of the Lion Heart 
or Louis of France might have found the smallest earthly 
principality of greater service to him than all the celestial 
hosts. How say you to that, my Lord Bishop ? " 

A stout churchman who had ridden behind the King on 
a solid bay, cob, well-suited to his weight and dignity, jogged 
up to the monarch's elbow. " How say you, sire ? I was 
watching the goshawk on the partridge and heard you not." 

" Had I said that I would add two manors to the See of 
Chichester, I warrant that you would have heard me, my 
Lord Bishop." 

" Nay, fair lord, test the matter by saying so," cried the 
jovial Bishop. 

The King laughed aloud. " A fair counter, your rever- 
ence. By the rood ! you broke your lance that passage. 
But the question I debated was this: How is it that since 
the Crusades have manifestly been fought in God's quarrel, 
we Christians have had so little comfort or support in fight- 
ing them. After all our efforts and the loss of more men 
than could be counted, we are at last driven from the coun- 
try, and even the military orders which were formed only 



Crooksbury Heath 87 



for that one purpose can scarce hold a footing in the islands 
of the Greek sea. There is not one seaport nor one fortress 
in Palestine over which the flag of the Cross still waves. 
Where then was our ally ? " 

" Nay, sire, you open a great debate which extends far 
beyond this question of the Holy Land, though that may 
indeed be chosen as a fair example. It is the question of 
all sin, of all suffering, of all injustice why it should pass 
without the rain of fire and the lightnings of Sinai. The 
wisdom of God is beyond our understanding." 

The King shrugged his shoulders. ' This is an easy 
answer, my Lord Bishop. You are a prince of the Church. 
It would fare ill with an earthly prince who could give no 
better answer to the affairs which concerned his realm." 

" There are other considerations which might be urged, 
most gracious sire. It is true that the Crusades were a 
holy enterprise which might well expect the immediate 
blessing of God ; but the Crusaders is it certain that they 
deserved such a blessing? Have I not heard that their 
camp was the most dissolute ever seen ? " 

" Camps are camps all the world over, and you cannot in 
a moment change a bowman into a saint. But the holy 
Louis was a crusader after your own heart. Yet his men 
perished at Mansurah and he himself at Tunis." 

" Bethink you also that this world is but the antecham- 
ber of the next," said the prelate. " By suffering and tribu- 
lation the soul is cleansed, and the true victor may be he 
who by the patient endurance of misfortune merits the hap- 
piness to come." 

"If that be the true meaning of the Church's blessing, 
then I hope that it will be long before it rests upon our ban- 
ners in France," said the King. " But methinks that when 
one is out with a brave horse and a good hawk one might 
find some other subject than theology. Back to the birds, 
Bishop, or Raoul the falconer will come to interrupt thee 
in thy cathedral." 

Straightway the conversation came back to the mystery 
of the woods and the mystery of the rivers, to the dark- 
eyed hawks and the yellow-eyed, to hawks of the lure and 
hawks of the fist. The Bishop was as steeped in the lore 



88 Sir Nigel 

of falconry as the King, and the others smiled as the two 
wrangled hard over disputed and technical questions : if an 
eyas trained in the mews can ever emulate the passage hawk 
taken wild, or how long the young hawks should be placed 
at hack, and how long weathered before they are fully 
reclaimed. 

Monarch and prelate were still deep in this learned dis- 
cussion, the Bishop speaking with a freedom and assurance 
which he would never have dared to use in affairs of Church 
and State, for in all ages there is no such leveler as sport. 
Suddenly, however, the Prince, whose keen eyes had swept 
from time to time over the great blue heaven, uttered a 
peculiar call and reined up his palfrey, pointing at the same 
time into the air. 

" A heron ! " he cried. " A heron on passage ! " 

To gain the full sport of hawking a heron must not be 
put up from its feeding-ground, where it is heavy with 
its meal, and has no time to get its pace on before 
it is pounced upon by the more active hawk, but it must 
be aloft, traveling from point to point, probably from the 
fish-stream to the heronry. Thus to catch the bird on 
passage was the prelude of all good sport. The object to 
which the Prince had pointed was but a black dot in the 
southern sky, but his strained eyes had not deceived him, 
and both Bishop and King agreed that it was indeed a 
heron, which grew larger every instant as it flew in their 
direction. 

"Whistle him off, sire! Whistle off the gerfalcon !" 
cried the Bishop. 

" Nay, nay, he is overfar. She would fly at check." 

" Now, sire, now ! " cried the Prince, as the great bird 
with the breeze behind him came sweeping down the sky. 

The King gave the shrill whistle, and the well-trained 
hawk raked out to the right and to the left to make sure 
which quarry she was to follow. Then, spying the heron, 
she shot up in a swift ascending curve to meet him. 

"Well flown, Margot! Good bird!" cried the King, 
clapping his hands to encourage the hawk, while the falcon- 
ers broke into the shrill whoop peculiar to the sport. 

Going on her curve, the hawk would soon have crossed 



Crooksbury Heath 89 

the path of the heron ; but the latter, seeing the danger in 
his front and confident in his own great strength of wing 
and lightness of body, proceeded to mount higher in the 
air, flying in such small rings that to the spectators it almost 
seemed as if the bird was going perpendicularly upward. 

" He takes the air ! " cried the King. " But strong as he 
flies, he cannot outfly Margot. Bishop, I lay you ten gold 
pieces to one that the heron is mine/' 

" I cover your wager, sire," said the Bishop. " I may 
not take gold so won, and yet I warrant that there is an 
altar-cloth somewhere in need of repairs." 

" You have good store of altar-cloths, Bishop, if all the 
gold I have seen you win at tables goes to the mending of 
them," said the King. " Ah ! by the rood, rascal, rascal ! 
See how she flies at check ! " 

The quick eyes of the Bishop had perceived a drift of 
rooks when on their evening flight to the rookery were pass- 
ing along the very line which divided the hawk from the 
heron. A rook is a hard temptation for a hawk to resist. 
In an instant the inconstant bird had forgotten all about 
the great heron above her and was circling over the rooks, 
flying westward with them as she singled out the plumpest 
for her stoop. 

" There is yet time, sire ! Shall I cast off her mate ? " 
cried the falconer. 

" Or shall I show you, sire, how a peregrine may win 
where a gerfalcon fails ? " said the Bishop. " Ten golden 
pieces to one upon my bird." 

" Done with you, Bishop ! " cried the King, his brow dark 
with vexation. " By the rood ! if you were as learned in 
the fathers as you are in hawks you would win to the throne 
of Saint Peter! Cast off your peregrine and make your 
boasting good." 

Smaller than the royal gerfalcon, the Bishop's bird was 
none the less a swift and beautiful creature. From her 
perch upon his wrist she had watched with fierce, keen eyes 
the birds in the heaven, mantling herself from time to time 
in her eagerness. Now when the button was undone 
and the leash uncast the peregrine dashed off with a whir 
of her sharp-pointed wings, whizzing round in a great 



go Sir Nigel 

ascending circle which mounted swiftly upward, growing 
ever smaller as she approached that lofty point where, a 
mere speck in the sky, the heron sought escape from its 
enemies. Still higher and higher the two birds mounted, 
while the horsemen, their faces upturned, strained their 
eyes in their efforts to follow them. 

" She rings ! She still rings ! " cried the Bishop. " She 
is above him ! She has gained her pitch." 

" Nay, nay, she is far below," said the King. 

" By my soul, my Lord Bishop is right ! " cried the Prince. 
" I believe she is above. See ! See ! She swoops ! " 

" She binds ! She binds ! " cried a dozen voices as the 
two dots blended suddenly into one. 

There could be no doubt that they were falling rapidly. 
Already they grew larger to the eye. Presently the heron 
disengaged himself and flapped heavily away, the worse for 
that deadly embrace, while the peregrine, shaking her 
plumage, ringed once more so as to get high above the 
quarry and deal it a second and more fatal blow. The 
Bishop smiled, for nothing, as it seemed, could hinder his 
victory. 

" Thy gold pieces shall be well spent, sire," said he. 
" What is lost to the Church is gained by the loser." 

But a most unlooked-for chance deprived the Bishop's 
altar-cloth of its costly mending. The King's gerfalcon 
having struck down a rook, and finding the sport but tame, 
bethought herself suddenly of that noble heron, which she 
still perceived fluttering over Crooksbury Heath. How 
could she have been so we'ak as to allow these silly, chatter- 
ing rooks to entice her away from that lordly bird? Even 
now it was not too late to atone for her mistake. In a 
great spiral she shot upward until she was over the heron. 
But what was this? Every fiber of her, from her crest 
to her deck feathers, quivered with jealousy and rage at 
the sight of this creature, a mere peregrine, who had dared 
to come between a royal gerfalcon and her quarry. With 
one sweep of her great wings she shot up until she was 
above her rival. The next instant 

' They crab ! They crab ! " cried the King, with a roar 
of laughter, following them with his eyes as they bus- 



Crooksbury Heath 91 



tied down through the air. " Mend thy own altar-cloths, 
Bishop. Not a groat shall you have from me this jour- 
ney. Pull them apart, falconer, lest they do each other an 
injury. And now, masters, let us on, for the sun sinks 
toward the west." 

The two hawks, which had come to the ground inter- 
locked with clutching talons and ruffled plumes, were torn 
apart and brought back bleeding and panting to their 
perches, while the heron after its perilous adventure flapped 
its way heavily onward to settle safely in the heronry of 
Waverley. The cortege, who had scattered in the excite- 
ment of the chase, came together again, and the journey 
was once more resumed. 

A horseman who had been riding toward them across the 
moor now quickened his pace and closed swiftly upon them. 
As he came nearer, the King and the Prince cried out joy- 
ously and waved their hands in greeting. 

" It is good John Chandos ! " cried the King. " By the 
rood, John, I have missed your merry songs this week or 
more! Glad I am to see that you have your citole slung 
to your back. Whence come you then ? " 

" I come from Tilford, sire, in the hope that I should 
meet your majesty." 

" It was well thought of. Come, ride here between the 
Prince and me, and we will believe that we are back in 
France with our war harness on our backs once more. 
What is your news, Master John ? " 

Chandos' quaint face quivered with suppressed amuse- 
ment and his one eye twinkled like a star. " Have you 
had sport, my liege ? " 

"Poor sport, John. We flew two hawks on the same 
heron. They crabbed, and the bird got free. But why do 
you smile so ? " 

" Because I hope to show you better sport ere you come 
to Tilford." 

" For the hawk? For the hound? " 

" A nobler sport than either." 

" Is this a riddle, John? What mean you? " 

" Nay, to tell all would be to spoil all. I say again that 
there is rare sport betwixt here and Tilford, and I beg you, 



9 2 Sir Nigel 

dear lord, to mend your pace that we make the most of trie 
daylight." 

Thus adjured, the King set spurs to his horse, and the 
whole cavalcade cantered over the heath in the direction 
which Chandos showed. Presently as they came over a 
slope they saw beneath them a winding river with an old 
high-backed bridge across it. On the farther side was a 
village green with a fringe of cottages and one dark manor- 
house upon the side of the hill. 

" This is Tilford," said Chandos. " Yonder is the house 
of the Lorings." 

The King's expectations had been aroused and his face 
showed his disappointment. 

" Is this the sport that you have promised us, Sir John ? 
How can you make good your words ? " 

" I will make them good, my liege." 

" Where then is the sport? " 

On the high crown of the bridge a rider in armor was 
seated, lance in hand, upon a great yellow steed. Chandos 
touched the King's arm and pointed. 

" That is the sport," said he. 



IX 

HOW NIGEL HELD THE BRIDGE AT TILFORD 

THE King looked at the motionless figure, at the 
little crowd of hushed expectant rustics beyond 
the bridge, and finally at the face of Chandos, which 
shone with amusement. 

" What is this, John? " he asked. 

"You remember Sir Eustace Loring, sire?" 

" Indeed I could never forget him nor the manner of his 
death." 

" He was a knight errant in his day." 

" That indeed he was none better have I known." 

" So is his son Nigel, as fierce a young war-hawk as ever 
yearned to use beak and claws; but held fast in the mews 
up to now. This is his trial fight. There he stands at the 
bridge-head, as was the wont in our fathers' time, ready to 
measure himself against all comers." 

Of all Englishmen there was no greater knight errant 
than the King himself, and none so steeped in every quaint 
usage of chivalry; so that the situation was after his own 
heart. 

"He is not yet a knight?" 

" No, sire, only a Squire." 

" Then he must bear himself bravely this day if he is to 
make good what he has done. Is it fitting that a young 
untried Squire should venture to couch his lance against 
the best in England ? " 

" He hath given me his cartel and challenge," said Chan- 
dos, drawing a paper from his tunic. " Have I your per- 
mission, sire, to issue it ? " 

" Surely, John, we have no cavalier more versed in the 
laws of chivalry than yourself. You know this young man, 
and you are aware how far he is worthy of the high honor 
which he asks, Let us hear his defiance," 

93 



94 Sir Nigel 

The knights and squires of the escort, most of whom were 
veterans of the French war, had been gazing with interest 
and some surprise at the steel-clad figure in front of them. 
Now at a call from Sir Walter Manny they assembled 
round the spot where the King and Chandos had halted. 
Chandos cleared his throat and read from his paper : 

" ' A tons seigneurs, chevaliers et escuyers,' so it is 
headed, gentlemen. It is a message from the good Squire 
Nigel Loring of Tilford, son of Sir Eustace Loring, of 
honorable memory. Squire Loring awaits you in arms, 
gentlemen, yonder upon the crown of the old bridge. Thus 
says he : * For the great desire that I, a most humble and 
unworthy Squire, entertain, that I may come to the knowl- 
edge of the noble gentlemen who ride with my royal master, 
I now wait on the Bridge of the Way in the hope that some 
of them may condescend to do some small deed of arms 
upon me, or that I may deliver them from any vow which 
they may have taken. This I say out of no esteem for 
myself, but solely that I may witness the noble bearing of 
these famous cavaliers and admire their skill in the handling 
of arms. Therefore, with the help of Saint George, I 
will hold the bridge with sharpened lances against any 
or all who may deign to present themselves while daylight 
lasts." 

" What say you to this, gentlemen ? " asked the King, 
looking round with laughing eyes. 

" Truly it is issued in very good form," said the Prince. 
" Neither Claricieux nor Red Dragon nor any herald that 
ever wore tabard could better it. Did he draw it of his 
own hand ? " 

" He hath a grim old grandmother who is one of the 
ancient breed," said Chandos. " I doubt not that the Dame 
Ermyntrude hath drawn a challenge or two before now. 
But hark ye, sire, I would have a word in your ear and 
yours too, most noble Prince." 

Leading them aside, Chandos whispered some explana- 
tions, which ended by them all three bursting into a shout 
of laughter. 

" By the rood ! no honorable gentleman should be reduced 
to such straits," said the King. " It behooves me to look 



The Bridge at Tilford 95 

to it. But how now, gentlemen? This worthy cavalier 
still waits his answer." 

The soldiers had all been buzzing together; but now 
Walter Manny turned to the King with the result of their 
counsel. 

" If it please your majesty," said he, " we are of opinion 
that this Squire hath exceeded all bounds in desiring to 
break a spear with a belted knight ere he has given his 
proofs. We do him sufficient honor if a Squire ride against 
him, and with your consent I have chosen my own body- 
squire, John Widdicombe, to clear the path for us across 
the bridge." 

" What you say, Walter, is right and fair," said the King. 
" Master Chandos, you will tell our champion yonder what 
hath been arranged. You will advise him also that it is 
our royal will that this contest be not fought upon the 
bridge, since it is very clear that it must end in one or 
both going over into the river, but that he advance to the 
end of the bridge and fight upon the plain. You will tell 
him also that a blunted lance is sufficient for such an en- 
counter, but that a hand-stroke or two with sword or mace 
may well be exchanged, if both riders should keep their 
saddles. A blast upon Raoul's horn shall be the signal to 
close." 

Such ventures as these where an aspirant for fame would 
wait for days at a cross-road, a ford, or a bridge, until some 
worthy antagonist should ride that way, were very common 
in the old days of adventurous knight erranty, and were 
still familiar to the minds of all men because the stories 
of the romancers and the songs of the trouveres were 
full of such incidents. Their actual occurrence however 
had become rare. There was the more curiosity, not un- 
mixed with amusement, in the thoughts of the courtiers 
as they watched Chandos ride down to the bridge and com- 
mented upon the somewhat singular figure of the challenger. 
His build was strange, and so also was his figure, for the 
limbs were short for so tall a man. His head also was 
sunk forward as if he were lost in thought or overcome 
with deep dejection. 

" This is surely the Cavalier of the Heavy Heart," said 



96 Sir Nigel 

Manny. " What trouble has he, that he should hang his 
head?" 

" Perchance he hath a weak neck," said the King. 

" At least he hath no weak voice," the Prince remarked, 
as Nigel's answer to Chandos came to their ears. " By our 
lady, he booms like a bittern." 

As Chandos rode back again to the King, Nigel exchanged 
the old ash spear which had been his father's for one of the 
blunted tournament lances which he took from the hands 
of a stout archer in attendance. He then rode down to 
the end of the bridge where a hundred-yard stretch of green- 
sward lay in front of him. At the same moment the Squire 
of Sir Walter Manny, who had been hastily armed by his 
comrades, spurred forward and took up his position. 

The King raised his hand; there was a clang from the 
falconer's horn, and the two riders, with a thrust of their 
heels and a shake of their bridles, dashed furiously at each 
other. In the center the green strip of marshy meadow- 
land, with the water squirting from the galloping hoofs, 
and the two crouching men, gleaming bright in the evening 
sun, on one side the half circle of motionless horsemen, 
some in steel, some in velvet, silent and attentive, dogs, 
hawks, and horses all turned to stone ; on the other the old 
peaked bridge, the blue lazy river, the group of open- 
mouthed rustics, and the dark old manor-house with one 
grim face which peered from the upper window. 

A good man was John Widdicombe, but he had met a 
better that day. Before that yellow whirlwind of a horse 
and that rider who was welded and riveted to his saddle 
his knees could not hold their grip. Nigel and Pommers 
were one flying missile, with all their weight and strength 
and energy centered on the steady end of the lance. Had 
Widdicombe been struck by a thunderbolt he could not 
have flown faster or farther from his saddle. Two full 
somersaults did he make, his plates clanging like cymbals, 
ere he lay prone upon his back. 

For a moment the King looked grave at that prodigious 
fall. Then smiling once more as Widdicombe staggered 
to his feet, he clapped his hands loudly in applause. "A 
fair course and fairly run 1 " he cried, " The five scarlet 



The Bridge at Tilford 97 

roses bear themselves in peace even as I have seen them 
in war. How now, my good Walter? Have you another 
Squire or will you clear a path for us yourself ? " 

Manny's choleric face had turned darker as he observed 
the mischance of his representative. He beckoned now to 
a tall knight, whose gaunt and savage face looked out from 
his open bassinet as an eagle might from a cage of steel. 

" Sir Hubert," said he, " I bear in mind the day when 
you overbore the Frenchman at Caen. Will you not be 
our champion now ? " 

" When I fought the Frenchman, Walter, it was with 
naked weapons," said the knight sternly. " I am a soldier 
and I love a soldier's work, but I care not for these tilt- 
yard tricks which were invented for nothing but to tickle 
the fancies of foolish women." 

" Oh, most ungallant speech ! " cried the King. " Had 
my good consort heard you she would have arraigned you 
to appear at a Court of Love with a jury of virgins to 
answer for your sins. But I pray you to take a tilting 
spear, good Sir Hubert ! " 

" I had as soon take a peacock's feather, my fair lord ; 
but I will do it, if you ask me. Here, page, hand me one 
of those sticks, and let me see what I can do." 

But Sir Hubert de Burgh was not destined to test either 
his skill or his luck. The great bay horse which he rode 
was as unused to this warlike play as was its master, and 
had none of its master's stoutness of heart; so that when 
it saw the leveled lance, the gleaming figure and the frenzied 
yellow horse rushing down upon it, it swerved, turned and 
galloped furiously down the river-bank. Amid roars of 
laughter from the rustics on the one side and from the 
courtiers on the other, Sir Hubert was seen, tugging vainly 
at his bridle, and bounding onward, clearing gorse-bushes 
and heather-clumps, until he was but a shimmering, quiver- 
ing gleam upon the dark hillside. Nigel, who had pulled 
Pommers on to his very haunches at the instant that his 
opponent turned, saluted with his lance and trotted back to 
the bridge-head, where he awaited his next assailant. 

" The ladies would say that a judgment hath fallen upon 
good Sir Hubert for his impious words," said the King. 



98 Sir Nigel 

" Let us hope that his charger may be broken in ere he 
venture to ride out between two armies," remarked the 
Prince. " They might mistake the hardness of his horse's 
mouth for a softness of the rider's heart. See where he 
rides, still clearing every bush upon his path." 

" By the rood ! " said the King, " if the bold Hubert has 
not increased his repute as a j ouster he has gained great 
honor as a horseman. But the bridge is still closed, Wal- 
ter. How say you now? Is this young Squire never to 
be unhorsed, or is your King himself to lay lance in rest 
ere his way can be cleared ? By the head of Saint Thomas ! 
I am in the very mood to run a course with this gentle 
youth." 

" Nay, nay, sire, too much honor hath already been done 
him ! " said Manny, looking angrily at the motionless horse- 
man. '* That this untried boy should be able to say that 
in one evening he has unhorsed my Squire, and seen the 
back of one of the bravest knights in England is surely 
enough to turn his foolish head. Fetch me, a spear, Rob- 
ert ! I will see what I can make of him." 

The famous knight took the spear when it was brought 
to him as a master-workman takes a tool. He balanced 
it, shook it once or twice in the air, ran his eyes down it 
for a flaw in the wood, and then finally having made sure 
of its poise and weight laid it carefully in rest under his 
arm. Then gathering up his bridle so as to have his horse 
under, perfect command, and covering himself with the 
shield, which was slung round his neck, he rode out to do 
battle. 

Now, Nigel, young and inexperienced, all Nature's aid 
will not help you against the mixed craft and strength of 
such a warrior. The day will come when neither Manny 
nor even Chandos could sweep you from your saddle; but 
now, even had you some less cumbrous armor, your chance 
were small. Your downfall is near; but as you see the 
famous black chevrons on a golden ground your gallant 
heart which never knew fear is only filled with joy and 
amazement at the honor done you. Your downfall is near, 
and yet in your wildest dreams you would never guess how 
strange your downfall is to be. 



The Bridge at Tilford 99 

Again with a dull thunder of hoofs the horses gallop over 
the soft water-meadow. Again with a clash of metal the 
two riders meet. It is Nigel now, taken clean in the face 
of his helmet with the blunted spear, who flies backward 
off his horse and falls clanging on the grass. 

But good heavens ! what is this ? Manny has thrown up 
his hands in horror and the lance has dropped from his 
nerveless fingers. From all sides, with cries of dismay, with 
oaths and snouts and ejaculations to the saints, the horse- 
men ride wildly in. Was ever so dreadful, so sudden, so 
complete, an end to a gentle passage at arms ? Surely their 
eyes must be at fault ? Some wizard's trick has been played 
upon them to deceive their senses. But no, it was only too 
clear. There on the greensward lay the trunk of the 
stricken cavalier, and there, a good dozen yards beyond, 
lay his helmeted head. 

" By the Virgin ! " cried Manny wildly, as he jumped 
from his horse, " I would give my last gold piece that the 
work of this evening should be undone! How came it? 
What does it mean? Hither, my Lord Bishop, for surely 
it smacks of witchcraft and the Devil." 

With a white face the Bishop had sprung down beside 
the prostrate body, pushing through the knot of horrified 
knights and squires. 

" I fear that the last offices of the Holy Church come 
too late," said he in a quivering voice. " Most unfortunate 
young man ! How sudden an end ! In medio vita, as the 
Holy Book has it one moment in the pride of his youth, 
the next his head torn from his body. Now God and his 
saints have mercy upon me and guard me from evil ! " 

The last prayer was shot out of the Bishop with an energy 
and earnestness unusual in his orisons. It was caused by 
the sudden outcry of one of the Squires who, having lifted 
the helmet from the ground, cast it down again with a 
scream of horror. 

" It is empty ! " he cried. " It weighs as light as a 
feather." 

" 'Fore God, it is true ! " cried Manny, laying his hand 
on it. ' There is no one in it. With what have I fought, 
father Bishop ? Is it of this world or of the next ? " 



TOO Sir Nigel 

The Bishop had clambered on his horse the better to 
consider the point. " If the foul fiend is abroad," said he, 
" my place is over yonder by the King's side. Certes that 
sulphur-colored horse hath a very devilish look. I could 
have sworn that I saw both smoke and flame from its nos- 
trils. The beast is fit to bear a suit of armor which rides, 
and fights and yet hath no man within it." 

" Nay, not too fast, father Bishop," said one of -the 
knightfc. " It may be all that you say an;^ yet come from 
a human workshop. When I made a campaign in South 
Germany J t have seen at Nuremberg a cunning figure, Re- 
vised by an', armorer, which could both ride and wield a 
sword. If this be such a one " 

" I thank you all for your very gentle courtesy," said a 
booming voice from the figure upon the ground. 

At the words even the valiant Manny sprang into his 
saddle. Some rode madly away from the horrid trunk. A 
few of the boldest lingered. 

" Most of all," said the voice, " would I thank the most 
noble knight, Sir Walter Manny, that he should deign to 
lay aside his greatness and condescend to do a deed of arms 
upon so humble a Squire." 

' 'Fore God ! " said Manny, " if this be the Devil, then 
the Devil hath a very courtly tongue. I will have him out 
of his armor, if he blast me ! " 

So saying he sprang once more from his horse and plun- 
ging his hand down the slit in the collapsed gorget he closed 
it tightly upon a fistful of Nigel's yellow curls. The groan 
that came forth was enough to convince him that it was 
indeed a man who lurked within. At the same time his 
eyes fell upon the hole in the mail corselet which had served 
the Squire as a vizor, and he burst into deep-chested mirth. 
The King, the Prince and Chandos, who had watched the 
scene from a distance, too much amused by it to explain 
or interfere, rode up weary with laughter, now that all was 
discovered. 

"Let him out!" said the King, with his hand to his 
side. " I pray you to unlace him and let him out ! I have 
shared in many a spear-running, but never have I been 
pearer falling from my horse than as I watched this one, 



The Bridge at Tilford I o t 

I feared the fall had struck him senseless, since he lay so 
still." 

Nigel had indeed lain with all the breath shaken from 
his body, and as he was aware that his helmet had been 
carried off, he had not understood either the alarm or the 
amusement that he had caused. Now freed from the great 
hauberk in which he had been shut like a pea in a pod, 
he stood blinking in the light, blushing deeply with shame 
that the shifts to which his poverty had reduced him should 
be exposed to all these laughing courtiers. It was the King 
who brought him comfort. 

" You have shown that you can use your father's 
weapons," said he, " and you have proved also that you 
are the worthy bearer of his name and his arms, for you 
have within you that spirit for which he was famous. But 
I wot that neither he nor you would suffer a train of hungry 
men to starve before your d0or ; so lead on, I pray you, 
and if the meat be as good as this grace before it, then it 
will be a feast indeed." 



X 

HOW THE KING GREETED HIS SENESCHAL 
OF CALAIS 

IT would have fared ill with the good name of Tilford 
Manor-house and with the housekeeping of the aged 
Dame Ermyntrude had the King's whole retinue, with 
his outer and inner marshal, his justiciar, his chamberlain 
and his guard, all gathered under the one roof. But by the 
foresight and the gentle management of Chandos this 
calamity was avoided, so that some were quartered at the 
great Abbey and others passed on to enjoy the hospitality 
of Sir Roger FitzAlan at Farnham Castle. Only the King 
himself, the Prince, Manny, Chandos, Sir Hubert de Burgh, 
the Bishop and two or three more remained behind as the 
guests of the Lorings. 

But small as was the party and humble the surroundings, 
the King in no way relaxed that love of ceremony, of elab- 
orate form and of brilliant coloring which was one of his 
characteristics. The sumpter-mules were unpacked, squires 
ran hither and thither, baths smoked in the bed-chambers, 
silks and satins were unfolded, gold chains gleamed and 
clinked, so that when at last, to the long blast of two court 
trumpeters, the company took their seats at the board, it was 
the brightest, fairest scene which those old black rafters 
had ever spanned. 

The great influx of foreign knights who had come in 
their splendor from all parts of Christendom to take part 
in the opening of the Round Tower of Windsor six years 
before, and to try their luck and their skill at the tourna- 
ment connected with it, had deeply modified the English 
fashions of dress. The old tunic, over-tunic and cyclas 
were too sad and simple for the new fashions, so now 
strange and brilliant cote-hardies, pourpoints, courtepies, 
paltocks, hanselines and many other wondrous garments, 

102 



The Seneschal of Calais 103 

party-colored or diapered, with looped, embroidered or 
escalloped edges, flamed and glittered round the King. He 
himself, in black velvet and gold, formed a dark rich center 
to the finery around him. On his right sat the Prince, on 
his left the Bishop, while Dame Ermyntrude marshaled the 
forces of the household outside, alert and watchful, pour- 
ing in her dishes and her flagons at the right moment, rally- 
ing her tired servants, encouraging the van, hurrying the 
rear, hastening up her reserves, the tapping of her oak stick 
heard everywhere the pressure was the greatest. 

Behind the King, clad in his best, but looking drab and 
sorry amid the brilliant costumes round him, Nigel him- 
self, regardless of an aching body and a twisted knee, waited 
upon his royal guests, who threw many a merry jest at 
him over their shoulders as they still chuckled at the adven- 
ture of the bridge. 

" By the rood ! " said King Edward, leaning back, with 
a chicken-bone held daintily between the courtesy fingers 
of his left hand, " the play is too good for this country stage. 
You must to Windsor with me, Nigel, and bring with you 
this great suit of harness in which you lurk. There you 
shall hold the lists with your eyes in your midriff, and un- 
less some one cleave you to the waist I see not how any 
harm can befall you. Never have I seen so small a nut 
in so great a shell." 

The Prince, looking back with laughing eyes, saw by 
Nigel's flushed and embarrassed face that his poverty hung 
heavily upon him. " Nay," said he kindly, " such a work- 
man is surely worthy of better tools." 

" And it is for his master to see that he has them," added 
the King. " The court armorer will look to it that the next 
time your helmet is carried away, Nigel, your head shall 
be inside it." 

Nigel, red to the roots of his flaxen hair, stammered out 
some words of thanks. 

John Chandos, however, had a fresh suggestion, and he 
cocked a roguish eye as he made it : " Surely, my liege, your 
bounty is little needed in this case. It is the ancient law 
of arms that if two cavaliers start to joust, and one either 
by maladdress or misadventure fail to meet the shock, then 



ir Nigel 



his arms become the property of him who still holds the 
lists. This being so, methinks, Sir Hubert de Burgh, that 
the fine hauberk of Milan and the helmet of Bordeaux steel 
in which you rode to Tilford should remain with our young 
host as some small remembrance of your visit." 

The suggestion raised a general chorus of approval and 
laughter, in which all joined, save only Sir Hubert himself, 
who, flushed with anger, fixed his baleful eyes upon Chan- 
dos' mischievous and smiling face. 

" I said that I did not play that foolish game, and I 
know nothing of its laws," said he ; " but you know well, 
John, that if you would have a bout with sharpened spear 
or sword, where two ride to the ground, and only one away 
from it, you have not far to go to find it." 

" Nay, nay, would you ride to the ground ? Surely you 
had best walk, Hubert," said Chandos. " On your feet I 
know well that I should not see your back as we have seen 
it to-day. Say what you will, your horse has played you 
false, and I claim your suit of harness for Nigel Loring." 

" Your tongue is overlong, John, and I am weary of its 
endless clack ! " said Sir Hubert, his yellow mustache 
bristling from a scarlet face. " If you claim my harness, 
do you yourself come and take it. If there is a moon in 
the sky you may try this very night when the board is 
cleared." 

" Nay, fair sirs," cried the King, smiling from one to the 
other, " this matter must be followed no further. Do you 
fill a bumper of Gascony, John, and you also, Hubert. Now 
pledge each other, I pray you, as good and loyal comrades 
who would scorn to fight save in your King's quarrel. We 
can spare neither of you while there is so much work for 
brave hearts over the sea. As to this matter of the har- 
ness, John Chandos speaks truly where it concerns a joust 
in the lists, but we hold that such a law is scarce binding 
in this, which was but a wayside passage and a gentle trial 
of arms. On the other hand, in the case of your Squire, 
Master Manny, there can be no doubt that his suit is forfeit." 

" It is a grievous hearing for him, my liege," said Walter 
Manny ; " for he is a poor man and hath been at sore pains 
to fit himself for the wars. Yet what you say shall be done, 



The Seneschal of Calais 105 

fair sire. So, if you will come to me in the morning, Squire 
Loring, John Widdicombe's suit will be handed over to you/' 

" Then with the King's leave, I will hand it back to him," 
said Nigel, troubled and stammering ; " for indeed I had 
rather never ride to the wars than take from a brave man 
his only suit of plate." 

" There spoke your father's spirit ! " cried the King. " By 
the rood ! Nigel, I like you full well. Let the matter bide 
in my hands. But I marvel much that Sir Aymery the 
Lombard hath not come to us yet from Windsor." 

From the moment of his arrival at Tilford, again and 
again King Edward had asked most eagerly whether Sir 
Aymery had come, and whether there was any news of 
him, so that the courtiers glanced at each other in wonder. 
For Aymery was known to all of them as a famous mer- 
cenary of Italy, lately appointed Governor of Calais, and 
this sudden and urgent summons from the King might well 
mean some renewal of the war with France, which was the 
dearest wish of every soldier. Twice the King had stopped 
his meal and sat with sidelong head, his wine-cup in his 
hand, listening attentively when some sound like the clatter 
of hoofs was heard from outside; but the third time there 
could be no mistake. The tramp and jingle of the horses 
broke loud upon the ear, and ended in hoarse voices call- 
ing out of the darkness, which were answered by the arch- 
ers posted as sentries without the door. 

" Some traveler has indeed arrived, my liege," said Nigel. 
" What is your royal will ? " 

" It can be but Aymery," the King answered, " for it 
was only to him that I left the message that he should fol- 
low me hither. Bid him come in, I pray you, and make 
him very welcome at your board." 

Nigel cast open the door, plucking a torch from its 
bracket as he did so. Half a dozen men-at-arms sat on 
their horses outside, but one had dismounted, a short, squat, 
swarthy man with a rat face and quick, restless brown 
eyes which peered eagerly past Nigel into the red glare of 
the well-lit hall. 

" I am Sir Aymery of Pavia," he whispered. " For God's 
sake, tell me ! is the King within ? " 



io6 Sir Nigel 

" He is at table, fair sir, and he bids you to enter." 

" One moment, young man, one moment, and a secret 
word in your ear. Wot you why it is that the King has sent 
forme?" 

Nigel read terror in the dark cunning eyes which glanced 
in sidelong fashion into his. " Nay, I know not." 

" I would I knew I would I was sure ere I sought his 
presence." 

" You have but to cross the threshold, fair sir, and doubt- 
less you will learn from the King's own lips." 

Sir Aymery seemed to gather himself as one who braces 
for a spring into ice-cold water. Then he crossed with a 
quick stride from the darkness into the light. The King 
stood up and held out his hand with a smile upon his long 
handsome face, and yet it seemed to the Italian that it was 
the lips which smiled but not the eyes. 

" Welcome ! " cried Edward. " Welcome to our worthy 
and faithful Seneschal of Calais ! Come, sit here before me 
at the board, for I have sent for you that I may hear 
your news from over the sea, and thank you for the care 
that you have taken of that which is as dear to me as wife 
or child. Set a place for Sir Aymery there, and give him 
food and drink, for he has ridden fast and far in our serv- 
ice to-day." 

Throughout the long feast which the skill of the Lady 
Ermyntrude had arranged, Edward chatted lightly with 
the Italian as well as with the barons near him. Fi- 
nally, when the last dish was removed and the gravy- 
soaked rounds of coarse bread which served as plates 
had been cast to the dogs, the wine-flagons were passed 
round; and old Weathercote the minstrel entered timidly 
with his harp in the hope that he might be allowed to 
play before the King's majesty. But Edward had other 
sport afoot. 

" I pray you, Nigel, to send out the servants, so that we 
may be alone. I would have two men-at-arms at every 
door jest we be disturbed in our debate, for it is a matter 
of privacy. And now, Sir Aymery, these noble lords as well 
as I, your master, would fain hear from your own lips how 
all goes forward in France." 



The Seneschal of Calais 107 

The Italian's face was calm ; but he looked restlessly from 
one to another along the line of his listeners. 

" So far as I know, my liege, all is quiet on the French 
marches," said he. 

" You have not heard then that they have mustered or 
gathered to a head with the intention of breaking the truce 
and making some attempt upon our dominions ? " 

" Nay, sire, I have heard nothing of it." 

" You set my mind much at ease, Aymery," said the 
King ; " for if nothing has come to your ears, then surely it 
cannot be. It was said that the wild Knight de Chargny had 
come down to St. Omer with his eyes upon my precious 
jewel and his mailed hands ready to grasp it." 

" Nay, sire, let him come. He will find the jewel safe 
in its strong box, with a goodly guard over it." 

" You are the guard over my jewel, Aymery." 

" Yes, sire, I am the guard." 

" And you are a faithful guard and one whom I can trust, 
are you not? You would not barter away that which is so 
dear to me when I have chosen you out of all my army to 
hold it for me ? " 

" Nay, sire, what reasons can there be for such questions ? 
They touch my honor very nearly. You know that I would 
part with Calais only when I parted with my soul." 

" Then you know nothing of de Chargny's attempt ? " 

" Nothing sire." 

" Liar and villain ! " yelled the King, springing to his feet 
and dashing his fist upon the table until the glasses rattled 
again. " Seize him, archers ! Seize him this instant ! Stand 
close by either elbow, lest he do himself a mischief ! Now 
do you dare to tell me to my face, you perjured Lombard, 
that you know nothing of de Chargny and his plans? " 

" As God is my witness I know nothing of him ! " The 
man's lips were white, and he spoke in a thin, sighing, reedy 
voice, his eyes wincing away from the fell gaze of the angry 
King. 

Edward laughed bitterly, and drew a paper from his 
breast. " You are the judges in this case, you, my fair son, 
and you, Chandos, and you, Manny, and you, Sir Hubert, 
and you also, my Lord Bishop. By my sovereign power I 



io8 Sir Nigel 

make you a court that you may deal justice upon this man, 
for by God's eyes I will not stir from this room until I have 
sifted the matter to the bottom. And first I would read 
you this letter. It is superscribed to Sir Aymery of Pavia, 
nomme Le Lombard, Chateau de Calais. Is not that your 
name and style, you rogue ? " 

" It is my name, sire ; but no such letter has come to me." 

" Else had your villainy never been disclosed. It is signed 
' Isidore de Chargny.' What says my enemy de Chargny to 
my trusted servant ? Listen ! ' We could not come with the 
last moon, for we have not gathered sufficient strength, nor 
have we been able to collect the twenty thousand crowns 
which are your price. But with the next turn of the moon 
in the darkest hour we will come and you will be paid your 
money at the small postern gate with the rowan-bush beside 
it/ Well, rogue, what say you now ? " 

" It is a forgery ! " gasped the Italian. 

" I pray you that you will let me see it, sire," said Chandos. 
" De Chargny was my prisoner, and so many letters passed 
ere his ransom was paid that his script is well-known to me. 
Yes, yes, I will swear that this is indeed his. If my salvation 
were at stake I could swear it." 

" If it were indeed written by de Chargny it was to dis- 
honor me," cried Sir Aymery. 

" Nay, nay! " said the young Prince. " We all know de 
Chargny and have fought against him. Many faults he has, 
a boaster and a brawler, but a braver man and one of greater 
heart and higher of enterprise does not ride beneath the 
lilies of France. Such a man would never stoop to write 
a letter for the sake of putting dishonor upon one of knightly 
rank. I, for one, will never believe it." 

A gruff murmur from the others showed that they were 
of one mind with the Prince. The light of the torches from 
the walls beat upon the line of stern faces at the high table. 
They had sat like flint, and the Italian shrank from their 
inexorable eyes. He looked swiftly round, but armed men 
choked every entrance. The shadow of death had fallen 
athwart his soul. 

' This letter," said the King, " was given by de Chargny 
to one Dom Beauvais, a priest of St. Omer, to carry into 



The Seneschal of Calais 109 

Calais. The said priest, smelling a reward, brought it to 
one who is my faithful servant, and so it came to me. 
Straightway I sent for this man that he should come to me. 
Meanwhile the priest has returned so that de Chargny may 
think that his message is indeed delivered." 

" I know nothing of it," said the Italian doggedly, licking 
his dry lips. 

A dark flush mounted to the King's forehead, and his 
eyes were gorged with his wrath. " No more of this, for 
God's dignity!" he cried. "Had we this fellow at the 
Tower, a few turns of the rack would tear a confession from 
his craven soul. But why should we need his word for his 
own guilt ? You have seen, my lords, you have heard ! How 
say you, fair son ? Is the man guilty ? " 

" Sire, he is guilty." 

" And you, John ? And you, Walter ? And you, Hu- 
bert ? And you, my Lord Bishop ? You are all of one mind, 
then. He is guilty of the betrayal of his trust. And the 
punishment ? " 

" It can only be death," said the Prince, and each in turn 
the others nodded their agreement. 

" Aymery of Pavia, you have heard your doom," said 
Edward, leaning his chin upon his hand and glooming at 
the cowering Italian. " Step forward, you archer at the 
door, you with the black beard. Draw your sword ! Nay, 
you white-faced rogue, I would not dishonor this roof-tree 
by your blood. It is your heels, not your head, that we want. 
Hack off these golden spurs of knighthood with your sword, 
archer ! 'Twas I who gave them, and I who take them back. 
Ha! they fly across the hall, and with them every bond 
betwixt you and the worshipful order whose sign and badge 
they are ! Now lead him out on the heath afar from the 
house where his carrion can best lie, and hew his scheming 
head from his body as a warning to all such traitors ! " 

The Italian, who had slipped from his chair to his knees, 
uttered a cry of despair, as an archer seized him by either 
shoulder. Writhing out of their grip, he threw himself 
upon the floor and clutched at the King's feet. 

" Spare me, my most dread lord, spare me, I beseech you ! 
In thq name of Christ's passion, I implore your grace and 



no Sir Nigel 

pardon! Bethink you, my good and dear lord, how many 
years I have served under your banners and how many serv- 
ices I have rendered. Was it not I who found the ford upon 
the Seine two days before the great battle? Was it not 
I also who marshaled the attack at the intaking of Calais? 
I have a wife and four children in Italy, great King, and 
it was the thought of them which led me to fall from my 
duty, for this money would have allowed me to leave the 
wars and to see them once again. Mercy, my liege, mercy, I 
implore ! " 

The English are a rough race, but not a cruel one. The 
King sat with a face of doom ; but the others looked askance 
and fidgeted in their seats. 

" Indeed, my fair liege," said Chandos, " I pray you that 
you will abate somewhat of your anger." 

Edward shook his head curtly. " Be silent, John. It shall 
be as I have said." 

" I pray you, my dear and honored liege, not to act with 
overmuch haste in the matter," said Manny. " Bind him 
and hold him until the morning, for other counsels may 
prevail." 

" Nay, I have spoken. Lead him out ! " 

But the trembling man clung to the King's knees in such 
a fashion that the archers could not disengage his convul- 
sive grip. " Listen to me a moment, I implore you ! Give 
me but one minute to plead with you, and then do what you 
will." 

The King leaned back in his chair. " Speak and have 
done," said he. 

" You must spare me, my noble liege. For your own sake 
I say that you must spare me, for I can set you in the way of 
such a knightly adventure as will gladden your heart. Be- 
think you, sire, that this de Chargny and his comrades know 
nothing of their plans having gone awry. If I do but send 
them a message they will surely come to the postern gate. 
Then, if we have placed our bushment with skill we shall 
have such a capture and such a ransom as will fill your 
coffers. He and his comrades should be worth a good 
hundred thousand crowns." 

Edward spurned the Italian away from him with his foot 



The Seneschal of Calais 



iii 



until he sprawled among the rushes, but even as he lay there 
like a wounded snake his dark eyes never left the King's 
face. 

" You double traitor ! You would sell Calais to de 
Chargny, and then in turn you would sell de Chargny to 
me. How dare you suppose that I or any noble knight had 
such a huckster's soul as to think only of ransoms where 
honor is to be won ? Could I or any true man be so caitiff 
and so thrall? You have sealed your own doom. Lead 
him out ! " 

" One instant, I pray you, my fair and most sweet lord," 
cried the Prince. " Assuage your wrath yet a little while, 
for this man's rede deserves perhaps more thought than 
we have given it. He has turned your noble soul sick with 
his talk of ransoms ; but look at it, I pray you, from the 
side of honor, and where could we find such hope of wor- 
shipfully winning worship? I pray you to let me put my 
body in this adventure, for it is one from which, if rightly 
handled, much advancement is to be gained." 

Edward looked with sparkling eyes at the noble youth 
at his side. " Never was hound more keen on the track 
of a stricken hart than you on the hope of honor, fair son," 
said he. " How do you conceive the matter in your mind? " 

" De Chargny and his men will be such as are worth going 
far to meet, for he will have the pick of France under his 
banner that night. If we did as this man says and awaited 
him with the same number of lances, then I cannot think 
that there is any spot in Christendom where one would 
rather be than in Calais that night." 

" By the rood, fair son, you are right ! " cried the King, 
his face shining with the thought. " Now which of you, 
John Chandos or Walter Manny, will take the thing in 
charge ? " He looked mischievously from one to the other 
like a master who dangles a bone betwixt two fierce old 
hounds. All they had to say was in their burning, longing 
eyes. " Nay, John, you must not take it amiss ; but it is 
Walter's turn, and he shall have it." 

" Shall we not all go under your banner, sire, or that of 
the Prince?" 

" Nay, it is not fitting that the royal banners of England 



H2 Sir Nigel 

should be advanced in so small an adventure. And yet, 
if you have space in your ranks for two more cavaliers, 
both the Prince and I would ride with you that night." 

The young man stooped and kissed his father's hand. 

" Take this man in your charge, Walter, and do with him 
as you will. Guard well lest he betray us once again. Take 
him from my sight, for his breath poisons the room. And 
now, Nigel, if that worthy graybeard of thine would fain 
twang his harp or sing to us but what in God's name would 
you have ? " 

He had turned, to find his young host upon his knee and 
his flaxen head bent in entreaty. 

" What is it, man ? What do you crave ? " 

"A boon, fair liege!" 

" Well, well, am I to have no peace to-night, with a traitor 
kneeling to me in front, and a true man on his knees be- 
hind ? Out with it, Nigel. What would you have ? " 

" To come with you to Calais." 

" By the rood ! your request is fair enough, seeing that 
our plot is hatched beneath your very roof. How say you, 
Walter ? Will you take him, armor and all ? " asked King 
Edward. 

"Say rather will you take me?" said Chandos. "We 
two are rivals in honor, Walter, but I am very sure that 
you would not hold me back." 

" Nay, John, I will be proud to have the best lance in 
Christendom beneath my banner." 

" And I to follow so knightly a leader. But Nigel Loring 
is my Squire, and so he comes with us also." 

:< Then that is settled," said the King, " and now there is 
no need for hurry, since there can be no move until the 
moon has changed. So I pray you to pass the flagon once 
again, and to drink with me to the good knights of France. 
May they be of great heart and high of enterprise when we 
all meet once more within the castle wall of Calais ! " 



XI 

IN THE HALL OF THE KNIGHT OF DUPLIN 

THE King had come and had gone. Tilford Manor- 
house stood once more dark and silent, but }0y 
and contentment reigned within its walls. In one 
night every trouble had fallen away like some dark curtain 
which had shut out the sun. A princely sum of money had 
come from the King's treasurer, given in such fashion that 
there could be no refusal. With a bag of gold pieces at his 
saddle-bow Nigel rode once more into Guildford, and not a 
beggar on the way who had not cause to bless his name. 

There he had gone first to the goldsmith and had bought 
back cup and salver and bracelet, mourning with the mer- 
chant over the evil chance that gold and gold-work had for 
certain reasons which only those in the trade could fully 
understand gone up in value during the last week, so that 
already fifty gold pieces had to be paid more than the price 
which Nigel had received. In vain the faithful Aylward 
fretted and fumed and muttered a prayer that the day would 
come when he might feather a shaft in the merchant's portly 
paunch. The money had to be paid. 

Thence Nigel hurried to Wat the armorer's and there he 
bought that very suit for which he had yearned so short a 
time before. Then and there he tried it on in the booth, 
Wat and his boy walking round him with spanner and 
wrench, fixing bolts and twisting rivets. 

" How is that, my fair sir ? " cried the armorer as he drew 
the bassinet over the head and fastened it to the camail 
which extended to the shoulders. " I swear by Tubal Cain 
that it fits you as the shell fits the crab ! A finer suit never 
came from Italy or Spain." 

Nigel stood in front of a burnished shield which served 
as a mirror, and he turned this way and that, preening him- 
self like a little shining bird. His smooth breastplate, hi 



1 1 4. Sir Nigel 

wondrous joints with their deft protection by the disks at 
knee and elbow and shoulder, the beautifully flexible gaunt- 
lets and sollerets, the shirt of mail and the close-fitting 
greave-plates were all things of joy and of beauty in his 
eyes. He sprang about the shop to show his lightness, and 
then running out he placed his hand on the pommel and 
vaulted into Pommers' saddle, while Wat and his boy ap- 
plauded in the doorway. 

Then springing off and running into the shop again he 
clanked down upon his knees before the image of the Virgin 
upon the smithy wall. There from his heart he prayed that 
no shadow or stain should come upon his soul or his honor 
whilst these arms incased his body, and that he might be 
strengthened to use them for noble and godly ends. A 
strange turn this to a religion of peace, and yet for many a 
century the sword and the faith had upheld each other and 
in a darkened world the best ideal of the soldier had turned 
in some dim groping fashion toward the light. " Benedic- 
tus dominus deus meus qui docet manus meas ad pr&lium et 
digitos meos ad bellum!" There spoke the soul of the 
knightly soldier. 

So the armor was trussed upon the armorer's mule and 
went back with them to Tilford, where Nigel put it on once 
more for the pleasure of the Lady Ermyntrude, who clapped 
her skinny hands and shed tears of mingled pain and joy 
pain that she should lose him, joy that he should go so 
bravely to the wars. As to her own future, it had been 
made easy for her, since it was arranged that a steward 
should look to the Tilford estate whilst she had at her dis- 
posal a suite of rooms in royal Windsor, where with other 
venerable dames of her own age and standing she could 
spend the twilight of her days discussing long-forgotten 
scandals and whispering sad things about the grandfathers 
and the grandmothers of the young courtiers all around 
them. There Nigel might leave her with an easy mind 
when he turned his face to France. 

But there was one more visit to be paid and one more 
farewell to be spoken ere Nigel could leave the moorlands 
where he had dwelled so long. That evening he donned his 
brightest tunjc, 4ark purple velvet gf Qenoa. ? \yftft trimming 




THAT VERY SUIT FOR WHICH HE HAD YEARNED 



Knight of Duplin 115 

of miniver, his hat with the snow-white feather curling 
round the front, and his belt of embossed silver round his 
loins. Mounted on lordly Pommers, with his hawk upon 
wrist and his sword by his side, never did fairer young 
gallant or one more modest in mind set forth upon such an 
errand. It was but the old Knight of Duplin to whom he 
would say farewell ; but the Knight of Duplin had two 
daughters, Edith and Mary, and Edith was the fairest maid 
in all the heather-country. 

Sir John Buttesthorn, the Knight of Duplin, was so called 
because he had been present at that strange battle, some 
eighteen years before, when the full power of Scotland had 
been for a moment beaten to the ground by a handful of 
adventurers and mercenaries, marching under the banner of 
no nation, but fighting in their own private quarrel. Their 
exploit fills no pages of history, for it is to the interest of 
no nation to record it, and yet the rumor and fame of the 
great fight bulked large in those times, for it was on that 
day when the flower of Scotland was left dead upon the 
field, that the world first understood that a new force had 
arisen in war, and that the English archer, with his robust 
courage and his skill with the weapon which he had wielded 
from his boyhood, was a power with which even the mailed 
chivalry of Europe had seriously to reckon. 

Sir John after his return from Scotland had become the 
King's own head huntsman, famous through all England for 
his knowledge of venery, until at last, getting overheavy for 
his horses, he had settled in modest comfort into the old 
house of Cosford upon the eastern slope of the Hindhead 
hill. Here, as his face grew redder and his beard more 
white, he spent the evening of his days, amid hawks and 
hounds, a flagon of spiced wine ever at his elbow, and his 
swollen foot perched upon a stool before him. There it 
was that many an old comrade broke his journey as he 
passed down the rude road which led from London to 
Portsmouth, and thither also came the young gallants of 
the country to hear the stout knight's tales of old wars, 
or to learn from him that lore of the forest and the chase 
which none could teach so well as he. 

But sooth to say, whatever the old knight might think. 



1 1 6 Sir Nigel 

it was not merely his old tales and older wine which drew 
the young men to Cosford, but rather the fair face of his 
younger daughter, or the strong soul and wise counsel 
of the elder. Never had two more different branches 
sprung from the same trunk. Both were tall and of a 
queenly graceful figure. But there all resemblance began 
and ended. 

Edith was yellow as the ripe corn, blue-eyed, winning, 
mischievous, with a chattering tongue, a merry laugh, and 
a smile which a dozen of young gallants, Nigel of Tilford at 
their head, could share equally amongst them. Like a young 
kitten she played with all things that she found in life, 
and some there were who thought that already the claws 
could be felt amid the patting of her velvet touch. 

Mary was dark as night, grave-featured, plain-visaged, 
with steady brown eyes looking bravely at the world from 
under a strong black arch of brows. None could call her 
beautiful, and when her fair sister cast her arm round her 
and placed her cheek against hers, as was her habit when 
company was there, the fairness of the one and the plainness 
of the other leaped visibly to the eyes of all, each the clearer 
for that hard contrast. And yet, here and there, there was 
one who, looking at her strange, strong face, and at the 
passing gleams far down in her dark eyes, felt that this 
silent woman with her proud bearing and her queenly grace 
had in her something of strength, of reserve and of mystery 
which was more to them than all the dainty glitter of her 
sister. 

Such were the ladies of Cosford toward whom Nigel 
Loring rode that night with doublet of Genoan velvet and 
the new white feather in his cap. 

He had ridden over Thursley Ridge past that old stone 
where in days gone by at the. place of Thor the wild Saxons 
worshiped their war-god. Nigel looked at it with a wary 
eye and spurred Pommers onward as he passed it, for still 
it was said that wild fires danced round it on the moonless 
nights, and they who had ears for such things could hear 
the scream and sob of those whose lives had been ripped 
from them that the fiend might be honored. Thor's stone, 
Thor's jumps, Thor's punch-bowl the whole country-side 



Knight of Duplin 117 

was one grim monument to the God of Battles, though the 
pious monks had changed his uncouth name for that of the 
Devil his father, so that it was the Devil's jumps and the 
Devil's punch-bowl of which they spoke. Nigel glanced 
back at the old gray bowlder, and he felt for an instant a 
shudder pass through his stout heart. Was it the chill of the 
evening air, or was it that some inner voice had whispered 
to him of the day when he also might lie bound on such a 
rock and have such a blood-stained pagan crew howling 
around him. 

An instant later the rock and his vague fear and all 
things else had passed from his mind, for there, down the 
yellow sandy path, the setting sun gleaming on her golden 
hair, her lithe figure bending and swaying with every heave 
of the cantering horse, was none other than the same fair 
Edith, whose face had come so often betwixt him and his 
sleep. His blood rushed hot to his face at the sight, for 
fearless of all else, his spirit was attracted and yet daunted 
by the delicate mystery of woman. To his pure and knight- 
ly soul not Edith alone, but every woman, sat high and aloof, 
enthroned and exalted, with a thousand mystic excellencies 
and virtues which raised her far above the rude world of 
man. There was joy in contact with them; and yet there 
was fear, fear lest his own unworthiness, his untrained 
tongue or rougher ways should in some way break rudely 
upon this delicate and tender thing. Such was his thought 
as the white horse 1 cantered toward him; but a moment 
later his vague doubts were set at rest by the frank voice 
of the young girl, who waved her whip in merry greeting. 

" Hail and well met, Nigel ! " she cried. " Whither away 
this evening? Sure I am that it is not to see your friends 
of Cosford, for when did you ever don so brave a doublet 
for us? Come, Nigel, her name, that I may hate her for- 
ever ! " 

" Nay, Edith," said the young Squire, laughing back at 
the laughing girl. " I was indeed coming to Cosford." 

" Then we shall ride back together, for I will go no far- 
ther. How think you that I am looking? " 

Nigel's answer was in his eyes as he glanced at the fair 
flushed face, the golden hair, the sparkling eyes and the 



1 1 8 Sir Nigel 

daintily graceful figure set off in a scarlet-and-black riding- 
dress. " You are as fair as ever, Edith." 

" Oh, cold of speech ! Surely you were bred for the clois- 
ters and not for a lady's bower, Nigel. Had I asked such 
a question from young Sir George Brocas or the Squire 
of Fernhurst, he would have raved from here to Cosford. 
They are both more to my taste than you are, Nigel." 

" It is the worse for me, Edith," said Nigel ruefully. 

" Nay, but you must not lose heart." 

" Have I not already lost it? " said he. 

" That is better," she cried, laughing. " You can be 
quick enough when you choose, Master Malapert. But you 
are more fit to speak of high and weary matters with my 
sister Mary. She will have none of the prattle and courtesy 
of Sir George, and yet I love them well. But tell me, 
Nigel, why do you come to Cosford to-night ? " 

" To bid you farewell." 

"Me alone?" 

" Nay, Edith, you and your sister Mary and the good 
knight your father." 

" Sir George would have said that he had come for me 
alone. Indeed you are but a poor courtier beside him. 
But is it true, Nigel, that you go to France ? " 

" Yes, Edith." 

" It was so rumored after the King had been to Tilford. 
The story goes that the King goes to France and you in 
his train. Is that true?" 

" Yes, Edith, it is true." 

" Tell me, then, to what part you go, and when ? " 

" That, alas ! I may not say." 

" Oh, in sooth ! " She tossed her fair head and rode on- 
ward in silence, with compressed lips and angry eyes. 

Nigel glanced at her in surprise and dismay. " Surely, 
Edith," said he at last, " you have overmuch regard for my 
honor that you should wish me to break the word that I 
have given ? " 

" Your honor belongs to you, and my likings belong to 
me," said she. "You hold fast to the one, and I will do the 
same by the other." 

They rode in silence through Thursley village. Then 



Knight of Duplin 119 



a thought came to her mind and in an instant her anger 
was forgotten and she was hot on a new scent. 

" What would you do if I were injured, Nigel? I have 
heard my father say that small as you are there is no man 
in these parts could stand against you. Would you be my 
champion if I suffered wrong? " 

" Surely I or any man of gentle blood would be the cham- 
pion of any woman who had suffered wrong." 

" You or any and I or any what sort of speech is that ? 
Is it a compliment, think you, to be mixed with a drove 
in that fashion? My question was of you and me. If I 
were wronged would you be my man ? " 

" Try me and see, Edith ! " 

" Then I .will do so, Nigel. Either Sir George Brocas 
or the Squire of Fernhurst would gladly do what I ask, 
and yet I am of a mind, Nigel, to turn to you." 

" I pray you to tell me what it is." 

" You know Paul de la Fosse of Shalford? " 

" You mean the small man with the twisted back ? " 

" He is no smaller than yourself, Nigel, and as to his 
back there are many folk that I know who would be glad 
to have his face." 

" Nay, I am no judge of that, and I spoke out of no dis- 
courtesy. What of the man ? " 

' He has flouted me, Nigel, and I would have revenge." 

' What on that poor twisted creature ? " 

' I tell you that he has flouted me ! " 

'But how?" 

' I should have thought that a true cavalier would have 
flown to my aid, withouten all these questions. But I will 
tell you, since I needs must. Know then that he was one 
of those who came around me and professed to be my own. 
Then, merely because he thought that there were others 
who were as dear to me as himself he left me, and now he 
pays court to Maude Twynham, the little freckle-faced 
hussy in his village." 

" But how has this hurt you, since he was no man of 
thine?" 

" He was one of my men, was he not? And he has 
made game of me to his wench. He has 4old her things 



12O Sir Nigel 

about me. He has made me foolish in her eyes. Yes, yes, 
I can read it in her saffron face and in her watery eyes when 
we meet at the church door on Sundays. She smiles 
yes, smiles at me! Nigel, go to him! Do not slay him, 
nor even wound him, but lay his face open with thy riding- 
whip, and then come back to me and tell me how I can serve 
you." 

Nigel's face was haggard with the strife within, for de- 
sire ran hot in every vein, and yet reason shrank with horror. 
" By Saint Paul ! Edith," he cried, " I see no honor nor ad- 
vancement of any sort in this thing which you have asked 
me to do. Is it for me to strike one who is no better than 
a cripple ? For my manhood I could not do such a deed, and I 
pray you, dear lady, that you will set me some other task." 

Her eyes flashed at him in contempt. " And you are 
a man-at-arms ! " she cried, laughing in bitter scorn. " You 
are afraid of a little man who can scarce walk. Yes, yes, 
say what you will, I shall ever believe that you have heard 
of his skill at fence and of his great spirit, and that your 
heart has failed you ! You are right, Nigel. He is indeed a 
perilous man. Had you done what I asked he would have 
slain you, and so you have shown your wisdom." 

Nigel flushed and winced under the words, but he said 
no more, for his mind was fighting hard within him, striv- 
ing to keep that high image, of woman which seemed for a 
moment to totter on the edge of a fall. Together in silence, 
side by side, the little man and the stately woman, the 
yellow charger and the white jennet, passed up the sandy 
winding track with the gorse and the bracken head-high 
on either side. Soon a path branched off through a gate- 
way marked with the boar-heads of the Buttesthorns, and 
there was the low widespread house heavily timbered, loud 
with the barking of dogs. The ruddy Knight limped forth 
with outstretched hand and roaring voice : 

" What how, Nigel ! Good welcome and all hail ! I had 
thought that you had given over poor friends like us, now 
that the King had made so much of you. The horses, 
varlets, or my crutch will be across you ! Hush, Lydiard ! 
Down, Pelamon! I can scarce hear my voice for your 
yelping. Mary, a cup of wine for young Squire Loring ! " 



tCnight of Duplirt 121 

She stood framed in the doorway, tall, mystic, silent, 
with strange, wistful face and deep soul shining in her dark, 
questioning eyes. Nigel kissed the hand that she held out, 
and all his faith in woman and his reverence came back 
to him as he looked at her. Her sister had slipped behind 
her and her fair elfish face smiled her forgiveness of Nigel 
over Mary's shoulder. 

The Knight of Duplin leaned his weight upon the young 
man's arm and limped his way across the great high-roofed 
hall to his capacious oaken chair. " Come, come, the stool, 
Edith ! " he cried. " As God is my help, that girl's mind 
swarms with gallants as a granary with rats. Well, Nigel, 
I hear strange tales of your spear-running at Tilford and 
of the visit of the King. How seemed he? And my old 
friend Chandos many happy hours in the woodlands have 
we had together and Manny too, he was ever a bold and 
a hard rider what news of them all ? " 

Nigel told to the old Knight all that had occurred, saying 
little of his own success and much of his own failure, yet 
the eyes of the dark woman burned the brighter as she sat 
at her tapestry and listened. 

Sir John followed the story with a running fire of oaths, 
prayers, thumps with his great fist and flourishes of his 
crutch. " Well, well, lad, you could scarce expect to hold 
your saddle against Manny, and you have carried your- 
self well. We are proud of you, Nigel, for you are our 
own man, reared in the heather country. But indeed I 
take shame that you are not more skilled in the mystery of 
the woods, seeing that I have had the teaching of you, and 
that no one in broad England is my master at the craft. 
I pray you to fill your cup again whilst I make use of the 
little time that is left to us." 

And straightway the old Knight began a long and weary 
lecture upon the times of grace and when each beast and 
bird was seasonable, with many anecdotes, illustrations, 
warnings and exceptions, drawn from his own great expe- 
rience. He spoke also of the several ranks and grades of 
the chase : how the hare, hart and boar must ever take pre- 
cedence over the buck, the doe, the fox, the marten and the 
roe, even as a knight banneret does over a knight, while 



122 Sir Nigel 

these in turn are of a higher class to the badger, the wildcat 
or the otter, who are but the common populace of the world 
of beasts. Of blood-stains also he spoke how the skilled 
hunter may see at a glance if blood be dark and frothy, 
which means a mortal hurt, or thin and clear, which means 
that the arrow has struck a bone. 

" By such signs," said he, " you will surely know whether 
to lay on the hounds and cast down the blinks which hinder 
the stricken deer in its flight. But above all I pray you, 
Nigel, to have a care in the use of the terms of the craft, 
lest you should make some blunder at table, so that those 
who are wiser may have the laugh of you, and we who love 
you may be shamed." 

" Nay, Sir John," said Nigel. " I think that after your 
teaching I can hold my place with the others." 

The old Knight shook his white head doubtfully. " There 
is so much to be learned that there is no one who can be 
said to know all," said he. "For example, Nigel, it is 
sooth that for every collection of beasts of the forest, and 
for every gathering of birds of the air, there is their own 
private name so that none may be confused with another." 

" I know it, fair sir." 

" You know it, Nigel, but you do not know each separate 
name, else are you a wiser man than I had thought you. 
In truth none can say that they know all, though I have 
myself picked off eighty and six for a wager at court, and 
it is said that the chief huntsman of the Duke of Burgundy 
has counted over a hundred but it is in my mind that he 
may have found them as he went, for there was none to 
say him nay. Answer me now, lad, how would you say if 
you saw ten badgers together in the forest? " 

" A cete of badgers, fair sir." 

" Good, Nigel good, by my faith ! And if you walk in 
Woolmer Forest and see a swarm of foxes, how would 
you call it ? " 

" A skulk of foxes." 

|| And if they be lions?" 

" Nay, fair sir, I am not like to meet several lions in 
Woolmer Forest." 

" Aye, lad, but there are other forests besides Woolmer, 



Knight of Duplin 123 

and other lands besides England, and who can tell how far 
afield such a knight errant as Nigel of Tilford may go, when 
he sees worship to be won? We will say that you were in 
the deserts of Nubia, and that afterward at the court of the 
great Sultan you wished to say that you had seen several 
lions, which is the first beast of the chase, being the king of 
all animals. How then would you say it ? " 

Nigel scratched his head. " Surely, fair sir, I would be 
content to say that I had seen a number of lions, if indeed 
I could say aught after so wondrous an adventure." 

" Nay, Nigel, a huntsman would have said that he had 
seen a pride of lions, and so proved that he knew the lan- 
guage of the chase. Now had it been boars instead of 
lions?" 

" One says a singular of boars." 

" And if they be swine? " 

" Surely it is a herd of swine." 

" Nay, nay, lad, it is indeed sad to see how little you know. 
Your hands, Nigel, were always better than your head. 
No man of gentle birth would speak of a herd of swine; 
that is the peasant speech. If you drive them it is a herd. 
If you hunt them it is other. What call you them, then, 
Edith?" 

" Nay, I know not," said the girl listlessly. A crumpled 
note brought in by a varlet was clinched in her right hand 
and her blue eyes looked afar into the deep shadows of 
the roof. 

" But you can tell us, Mary ? " 

" Surely, sweet sir, one talks of a sounder of swine." 

The old Knight laughed exultantly. " Here is a pupil 
who never brings me shame ! " he cried. " Be it lore of chiv- 
alry or heraldry or woodcraft or what you will, I can al- 
ways turn to Mary. Many a man can she put to the blush." 

" Myself among them," said Nigel. 

"Ah, lad, you are a Solomon to some of them. Hark 
ye! only last week that jack- fool, the young Lord of Brocas, 
was here talking of having seen a covey of pheasants in 
the wood. One such speech would have been the ruin of 
a young Squire at the court. How would you have said it, 
Nigel?" 



Sir Nigel 



" Surely, fair sir, it should be a nye of pheasants.'' 

" Good, Nigel a nye of pheasants, even as it is a gaggle 
of geese or a badling of ducks, a fall of woodcock or a 
wisp of snipe. But a covey of pheasants ! What sort of 
talk is that? I made him sit even where you are sitting, 
Nigel, and I saw the bottom of two pots of Rhenish ere 
I let him up. Even then I fear that he had no great profit 
from his lesson, for he was casting his foolish eyes at 
Edith when he should have been turning his ears to her 
father. But where is the wench ? " 

" She hath gone forth, father." 

" She ever doth go forth when there is a chance o learn- 
ing aught that is useful indoors. But supper will soon be 
ready, and there is a boar's ham fresh from the forest with 
which I would ask your help, Nigel, and a side of venison 
from the King's own chase. The tinemen and verderers 
have not forgotten me yet, and my larder is ever full. Blow 
three moots on the horn, Mary, that the varlets may set the 
table, for the growing shadow and my loosening belt warn 
me that it is time." 



XII 

HOW NIGEL FOUGHT THE TWISTED MAN 
OF SHALFORD 

IN the days of which you read all classes, save perhaps 
the very poor, fared better in meat and in drink than 
they have ever done since. The country was covered 
with woodlands there were seventy separate forests in 
England alone, some of them covering half a shire. Within 
these forests the great beasts of the chase were strictly pre- 
served, but the smaller game, the hares, the rabbits, the 
birds, which swarmed round the coverts, found their way 
readily into the poor man's pot. Ale was very cheap, and 
cheaper still was the mead which every peasant could make 
for himself out of the wild honey in the tree-trunks. There 
were many tea-like drinks also, which were brewed by the 
poor at no expense: mallow tea, tansy tea, and others the 
secret of which has passed. 

Amid the richer classes there was rude profusion, great 
joints ever on the sideboard, huge pies, beasts of the field and 
beasts of the chase, with ale and rough French or Rhenish 
wines to wash them down. But the very rich had attained 
to a high pitch of luxury in their food, and cookery was 
a science in which the ornamentation of the dish was almost 
as important as the dressing of the food. It was gilded, it 
was silvered, it was painted, it was surrounded with flame. 
From the boar and the peacock down to such strange food 
as the porpoise and the hedgehog, every dish had its own 
setting and its own sauce, very strange and very complex, 
with flavorings of dates, currants, cloves, vinegar, sugar 
and honey, of cinnamon, ground ginger, sandalwood, saf- 
fron, brawn and pines. It was the Norman tradition to 
eat in moderation, but to have a great profusion of the 
best and of the most delicate from which to choose. From 



126 Sir Nigel 

them came this complex cookery, so unlike the rude and 
often gluttonous simplicity of the old Teutonic stock. 

Sir John Buttesthorn was of that middle class who fared 
in the old fashion, and his great oak supper-table groaned 
beneath the generous pasties, the mighty joints and the 
great flagons. Below were the household, above on a raised 
dais the family table, with places ever ready for those 
frequent guests who dropped in from the high road outside. 
Such a one had just come, an old priest, journeying from 
the Abbey of Chertsey to the Priory of Saint John at Mid- 
hurst. He passed often that way, and never without break- 
ing his journey at the hospitable board of Cosford. 

u Welcome again, good Father Athanasius ! " cried the 
burly Knight. " Come sit here on my right and give me the 
news of the country-side, for there is never a scandal but 
the priests are the first to know it." 

The priest, a kindly, quiet man, glanced at an empty 
place upon the farther side of his host. " Mistress Edith ? " 
said he. 

" Aye, aye, where is the hussy ? " cried her father im- 
patiently. " Mary, I beg you to have the horn blown again, 
that she may know that the supper is on the table. What 
can the little owlet do abroad at this hour of the night ? " 

There was trouble in the priest's gentle eyes as he touched 
the Knight upon the sleeve. " I have seen Mistress Edith 
within this hour," said he. " I fear that she will hear no 
horn that you may blow, for she must be at Milford ere 
now." 

" At Milford ? What does she there ? " 

" I pray you, good Sir John, to abate your voice some- 
what, for indeed this matter is for our private discourse, 
since it touches the honor of a lady." 

" Her honor ? " Sir John's ruddy face had turned redder 
still, as he stared at the troubled features of the priest. " Her 
honor, say you the honor of my daughter? Make good 
those words, or never set your foot over the threshold of 
Cosford again ! " 

" I trust that I have done no wrong, Sir John, but indeed 
I must say what I have seen, else would I be a false friend 
and an unworthy priest/' 



The Twisted Man of Shalford 127 

" Haste man, haste ! What in the Devil's name have you 
seen?" 

" Know you a little man, partly misshapen, named Paul 
de la Fosse ?" 

" I know him well. He is a man of noble family and coat- 
armor, being the younger brother of Sir Eustace de la 
Fosse of Shalford. Time was when I had thought that I 
might call him son, for there was never a day that he did not 
pass with my girls, but I fear that his crooked back sped him 
ill in his wooing." 

" Alas, Sir John ! It is his mind that is more crooked 
than his back. He is a perilous man with women, for 
the Devil hath given him such a tongue and such an 
eye that he charms them even as the basilisk. Marriage 
may be in their mind, but never in his, so that I could 
count a dozen and more whom he has led to their un- 
doing. It is his pride and his boast over the whole country- 
side." 

" Well, well, and what is this to me or mine ? " 

" Even now, Sir John, as I rode my mule up the road 
I met this man speeding toward his home. A woman rode 
by his side, and though her face was hooded I heard her 
laugh as she passed me. That laugh I have heard before, 
and it was under this very roof, from the lips of Mistress 
Edith." 

The Knight's knife dropped from his hand. But the 
debate had been such that neither Mary nor Nigel could 
fail to have heard it. Mid the rough laughter and clatter 
of voices from below the little group at the high table had 
a privacy of their own. 

" Fear not, father," said the girl " indeed, the good 
Father Athanasius hath fallen into error, and Edith will be 
with us anon. I have heard her speak of this man many 
times of late, and always with bitter words." 

" It is true, sir," cried Nigel eagerly. " It was only this 
very Evening as we rode over Thursley Moor that Mistress 
Edith told me that she counted him noi a fly, and that she 
would be glad if he were beaten for his evil deeds." 

But the wise priest shook his silvery locks. " Nay, there 
is ever danger when a, woman speaks like that. Hot hate. 



128 Sir Nigel 

is twin brother to hot love. Why should she speak so if 
there were not some bond between them ? " 

" And yet," said Nigel, " what can have changed her 
thoughts in three short hours? She was here in the hall 
with us since I came. By Saint Paul, I will not believe 
it!" 

Mary's face darkened. " I call to mind," said she, " that a 
note was brought her by Hannekin the stable varlet when 
you were talking to us, fair sir, of the terms of the chase. 
She read it and went forth." 

Sir John sprang to his feet, but sank into his chair again 
with a groan. " Would that I were dead," he cri^d, " ere 
I saw dishonor come upon my house, and am so tied with 
this accursed foot that I can neither examine if it be true, 
nor yet avenge it! If my son Oliver were here, then all 
would be well. Send me this stable varlet that I may ques- 
tion him." 

" I pray you, fair and honored sir," said Nigel, " that you 
will take me for your son this night, that I may handle this 
matter in the way which seems best. On jeopardy of my 
honor I will do all that a man may." 

" Nigel, I thank you. There is no man in Christendom 
to whom I would sooner turn. v 

" But I would learn your mind in one matter, fair sir. 
This man, Paul de la Fosse, owns broad acres, as I under- 
stand, and comes of noble blood. There is no reason if 
things be as we fear that he should not marry your 
daughter ? " 

' Nay, she could not wish for better." 

" It is well. And first I would question this Hannekin ; 
but it shall be done in such a fashion that none shall know, 
for indeed it is not a matter for the gossip of servants. 
But if you will show me the man, Mistress Mary, I will 
take him out to tend my own horse, and so I shall learn 
all that he has to tell." 

Nigel was absent for some time, and when he returned 
the shadow upon his face brought little hope to the anxious 
hearts at the high table. " I have locked him in the stable- 
loft, lest he talk too much," said he, " for my questions 
must have shown him whence the wind blew, It was jndee4 



The Twisted Man of Shalford 129 

from this man that the note came, and he had brought with 
him a spare horse for the lady." 

The old Knight groaned, and his face sank upon his 
hands. 

" Nay, father they watch you! " whispered Mary. " For 
the honor of our house let us keep a bold face to all." 
Then, raising her young clear voice, so that it sounded 
through the room : " If you ride eastward, Nigel, I would 
fain go with you, that my sister may not come back alone." 

" We will ride together, Mary," said Nigel, rising ; then 
in a lower voice : " But we cannot go alone, and if we take 
a servant all is known. I pray you to stay at home and 
leave the matter with me." 

" Nay, Nigel, she may sorely need a woman's aid, and 
what woman should it be save her own sister? I can take 
my tire-woman with us." 

" Nay, I shall ride with you myself if your impatience 
can keep within the powers of my mule," said the old priest. 

" But it is not your road, father ? " 

:< The only road of a true priest is that which leads to the 
good of others. Come, my children, and we will go to- 
gether." 

And so it was that stout Sir John Buttesthorn, the aged 
Knight of Duplin, was left alone at his own high table, 
pretending to eat, pretending to drink, fidgeting in his seat, 
trying hard to seem unconcerned with his mind and body 
in a fever, while below him his varlets and handmaids 
laughed and jested, clattering their cups and clearing their 
trenchers, all unconscious of the dark shadow which threw 
its gloom over the lonely man upon the dais above. 

Meantime the Lady Mary upon the white jennet which 
her sister had ridden on the same evening, Nigel on his 
war-horse, and the priest on the mule, clattered down the 
rude winding road which led to London. The country on 
either side was a wilderness of heather moors and of mo- 
rasses from which came the strange crying of night-fowl. 
A half-moon shone in the sky between the rifts of hurrying 
clouds. The lady rode in silence, absorbed in the thought 
pf the task before them, the danger and the shame. 



130 Sir Nigel 

Nigel chatted in a low tone with the priest. From him 
he learned more of the evil name of this man whom they 
followed. His house at Shalford was a den of profligacy 
and vice. No woman could cross that threshold and depart 
unstained. In some strange fashion, inexplicable and yet 
common, the man, with all his evil soul and his twisted body, 
had yet some strange fascination for women, some mastery 
over them which compelled them to his will. Again and 
again he had brought ruin to a household, again and again 
his adroit tongue and his cunning wit had in some fashion 
saved him from the punishment of his deeds. His family 
was great in the county, and his kinsmen held favor with 
the King, so that his neighbors feared to push things too 
far against him. Such was the man, malignant and raven- 
ous, who had stooped like some foul night-hawk and borne 
away to his evil nest the golden beauty of Cosford. Nigel 
said little as he listened, but he raised his hunting-dagger 
to his tightened lips, and thrice he kissed the cross of its 
handle. 

They had passed over the moors and through the village 
of Milford and the little township of Godalming, until 
their path turned southward over the Pease marsh and 
crossed the meadows of Shalford. There on the dark hill- 
side glowed the red points of light which marked the win- 
dows of the house which they sought. A somber arched 
avenue of oak-trees led up to it, and then they were in the 
moon-silvered clearing in front. 

From the shadow of the arched door there sprang two 
rough serving-men, bearded and gruff, great cudgels in 
their hands, to ask them who they were and what their 
errand. The Lady Mary had slipped from her horse and 
was advancing to the door, but they rudely barred her 
way. 

" Nay, nay, our master needs no more ! " cried one, with a 
hoarse laugh. " Stand back, mistress, whoever you be ! 
The house ^is shut, and our lord sees no guests to-night." 

" Fellow/' said Nigel, speaking low and clear, " stand 
back from us ! Our errand is with your master." 

" Bethink you, my children," cried the old priest, " would 
jt pot be best percliance, tha^ I go in to him 3nd see 



The Twisted Man of Shalford i 3 i 

the voice of the Church may not soften this hard heart? 
I fear bloodshed if you enter." 

" Nay, father, I pray you to stay here for the nonce," 
said Nigel. " And you, Mary, do you bide with the good 
priest, for we know not what may be within." 

Again he turned to the door, and again the two men 
barred his passage. 

" Stand back, I say, back for your lives ! " said Nigel. 
" By Saint Paul ! I should think it shame to soil my sword 
with such as you, but my soul is set, and no man shall bar 
my path this night." 

The men shrank from the deadly menace of that gentle 
voice. 

" Hold ! " said one of them, peering through the darkness, 
" is it not Squire Loring of Tilf ord ? " 

" That is indeed my name." 

" Had you spoken it I for one would not have stopped 
your way. Put down your staff, Wat, for this is no stranger, 
but the Squire of Tilford." 

" As well for him," grumbled the other, lowering his 
cudgel with an inward prayer of thanksgiving. " Had it 
been otherwise I should have had blood upon my soul to- 
night. But our master said nothing of neighbors when 
he ordered us to hold the door. I will enter and ask him 
what is his will." 

But already Nigel was past them and had pushed open 
the outer door. Swift as he was, the Lady Mary was at his 
very heels, and the two passed together into the hall be- 
yond. 

It was a great room, draped and curtained with black 
shadows, with one vivid circle of light in the center, where 
two oil lamps shone upon a small table. A meal was laid 
upon the table, but only two were seated at it, and there were 
no servants in the room. At the near end was Edith, her 
golden hair loose and streaming down over the scarlet 
and black of her riding-dress. 

At the farther end the light beat strongly upon the harsh 
face and the high-drawn misshapen shoulders of the lord 
of the house. A tangle of black hair surmounted a high 
rounded foreliead, the forehead of a thinker, with two 



132 Sir Nigel 

deep-set cold gray eyes twinkling sharply from under tufted 
brows. His nose was curved and sharp, like the beak of 
some cruel bird, but below the whole of his clean-shaven 
powerful face was marred by the loose slabbing mouth and 
the round folds of the heavy chin. His knife in one hand 
and a half-gnawed bone in the other, he looked fiercely up, 
like some beast disturbed in his den, as the two intruders 
broke in upon his hall. 

Nigel stopped midway between the door and the table, 
His eyes and those of Paul de la Fosse were riveted upon 
each other. But Mary, with her woman's soul flooded over 
with love and pity, had rushed forward and cast her arms 
round her younger sister. Edith had sprung up from her 
chair, and with averted face tried to push the other away 
from her. 

" Edith, Edith ! By the Virgin, I implore you to come 
back with us, and to leave this wicked man ! " cried Mary. 
" Dear sister, you would not break our father's heart, nor 
bring his gray head in dishonor to the grave ! Come back ! 
Edith, come back and all is well." 

But Edith pushed her away, and her fair cheeks were 
flushed with her anger. " What right have you over me, 
Mary, you who are but two years older, that you should fol- 
low me over the country-side as though I were a runagate 
villain and you my mistress ? Do you yourself go back, and 
leave me to do that which seems best in my own eyes." 

But Mary still held her in her arms, and still strove to 
soften the hard and angry heart. " Our mother is dead, 
Edith. I thank God that she died ere she saw you under 
this roof ! But I stand for her, as J have done all my life, 
since I am indeed your elder. It is with her voice that I 
beg and pray you that .you will not trust this man further, 
and that you will come back ere it be too late ! " 

Edith writhed from her grasp, and stood flushed and 
defiant, with gleaming, angry eyes fixed upon her sister. 
" You may speak evil of him now," said she, " but there 
was a time when Paul de la Fosse came to Cosford, and who 
so gentle and soft-spoken to him then as wise, grave, sister 
Mary? But he has learned to love another; so now he is 
the wicked man, and it is shame to be seen under his roof ! 



The Twisted Man of Shalford 1 3 3 

From what I see of my good pious sister and her cavalier 
it is sin for another to ride at night with a man at your side, 
but it comes easy enough to you. Look at your own eye, 
good sister, ere you would take the speck from that of 
another." 

Mary stood irresolute and greatly troubled, holding down 
her pride and her anger, but uncertain how best to deal 
with this strong wayward spirit. 

" It is not a time for bitter words, dear sister," said she, 
and again she laid her hand upon her sister's sleeve. " All 
that you say may be true. There was indeed a time when 
this man was friend to us both, and I know even as you 
do the power which he may have to win a woman's heart. 
But I know him now, and you do not. I know the evil that he 
has wrought, the dishonor that he has brought, the perjury 
that lies upon his soul, the confidence betrayed, the promise 
unfulfilled all this I know. Am I to see my own sister 
caught in the same well-used trap? Has it shut upon you, 
child ? Am I indeed already too late ? For God's sake, tell 
me, Edith, that it is not so ? " 

Edith plucked her sleeve from her sister and made two 
swift steps to the head of the table. Paul de la Fosse still 
sat silent with his eyes upon Nigel. Edith laid her hand 
upon his shoulder. " This is the man I love, and the only 
man that I have ever loved. This is my husband," -said 
she. 

At the word Mary gave a cry of joy. 

"And is it so?" she cried. " Nay, then all is in honor, 
and God will see to the rest. If you are man and wife 
before the altar, then indeed why should I, or any other, 
stand between you ? Tell me that it is indeed so, and I re- 
turn this moment to make your father a happy man." 

Edith pouted like a naughty child. " We are man and 
wife in the eyes of God. Soon also we shall be wedded 
before all the world. We do but wait until next Monday 
when Paul's brother, who is a priest at St. Albans, will 
come to wed us. Already a messenger has sped for him, 
and he will come, will he not, dear love ? " 

" He will come," said the master of Shalford, still with 
his eyes fixed upon the silent Nigel. 



134 Sir Nigel 

" It is a lie ; he will not come," said a voice from the 
door. 

It was the old priest, who had followed the others as far 
as the threshold. 

" He will not come," he repeated as he advanced into the 
room. " Daughter, my daughter, hearken to the words of 
one who is indeed old enough to be your earthly father. 
This lie has served before. He has ruined others before 
you with it. The man has no brother at Saint Albans. I 
know his brothers well, and there is no priest among them. 
Before Monday, when it is all too late, you will have found 
the truth as others have done before you. Trust him not, 
but come with us ! " 

Paul de la Fosse looked up at her with a quick smile and 
patted the hand upon his shoulder. 

" Do you speak to them, Edith," said he. 

Her eyes flashed with scorn as she surveyed them each 
in turn, the woman, the youth and the priest. 

" I have but one word to say to them," said she. " It is 
that they go hence and trouble us no more. Am I not a 
free woman? Have I not said that this is the only man 
I ever loved? I have loved him long. He did not know 
it, and in despair he turned to another. Now he knows all 
and never again can doubt come between us. Therefore 
I will stay here at Shalford and come to Cosford no more 
save upon the arm of my husband. Am I so weak that I 
would believe the tales you tell against him ? Is it hard for 
a jealous woman and a wandering priest to agree upon a lie? 
No, no, Mary, you can go hence and take your cavalier and 
your priest with you, for here I stay, true to my love and 
safe in my trust upon his honor ! " 

" Well spoken, on my faith, my golden bird ! " said the 
little master of Shalford. " Let me add my own word to 
that which has been said. You would not grant me any 
virtue in your unkindly speech, good Lady Mary, and yet 
you must needs confess that at least I have good store of 
patience, since I have not set my dogs upon your friends who 
have come between me and my ease. But even to the most 
virtuous there comes at last a time when poor human frailty 
may prevail, and so I pray you to remove both yourself, 



The Twisted Man of Shalford 135 

your priest and your valiant knight errant, lest perhaps there 
be more haste and less dignity when at last you do take your 
leave. Sit down, my fair love, and let us turn once more 
to our supper." He motioned her to her chair, and he filled 
her wine-cup as well as his own. 

Nigel had said no word since he had entered the room, 
but his look had never lost its set purpose, nor had his 
brooding eyes ever wandered from the sneering face of the 
deformed master of Shalford. Now he turned with swift 
decision to Mary and to the priest. 

" That is over," said he in a low voice. " You have done 
all that you could, and now it is for me to play my part 
as well as I am able. I pray you, Mary, and you, good 
father, that you will await me outside." 

" Nay, Nigel, if there is danger " 

" It is easier for me, Mary, if you are not there. I pray 
you to go. I can speak to this man more at my ease." 

She looked at him with questioning eyes and then obeyed. 

Nigel plucked at the priest's gown. 

" I pray you, father, have you your book of offices with 
you?" 

" Surely, Nigel, it is ever in my breast." 

" Have it ready, father ! " 

" For what, my son ? " 

" There are two places you may mark ; there is the serv- 
ice of marriage and there is the prayer for the dying. Go 
with her, father, and be ready at my call." 

He closed the door behind them and was alone with this 
ill-matched couple. They both turned in their chairs to 
look at him, Edith with a defiant face, the man with a bitter 
smile upon his lips and malignant hatred in his eyes. 

" What," said he, " the knight errant still lingers? Have 
we not heard of his thirst for glory? What new venture 
does he see that he should tarry here ? " 

Nigel walked to the table. 

" There is no glory and little venture," said he ; " but I 
have come for a purpose and I must do it. I learn from 
your own lips, Edith, that you will not leave this man." 

" If you have ears you have heard it." 

" You are, as you have said, a free woman, and who 



136 Sir Nigel 

can gainsay you? But I have known you, Edith, since we 
played as boy and girl on the heather-hills together. I will 
save you from this man's cunning and from your own fool- 
ish weakness/' 

"What would you do?" 

" There is a priest without. He will marry you now. I 
will see you married ere I leave this hall." 

" Or else? " sneered the man. 

" Or else you never leave this hall alive. Nay, call not 
for your servants or your dogs! By Saint Paul! I swear 
to you that this matter lies between us three, and that if any 
fourth comes at your call you, at least, shall never live to 
see what comes of it ! Speak then, Paul of Shalf ord f Will 
you wed this woman now, or will you not ? " 

Edith was on her feet with outstretched arms between 
them. " Stand back, Nigel ! He is small and weak. You 
would not do him a hurt! Did you not say so this very 
day ? For God's sake, Nigel, do not look at him so I There 
is death in your eyes." 

" A snake may be small and weak, Edith, yet every 
honest man would place his heel upon it. Do you stand back 
yourself, for my purpose is set/' 

" Paul ! " she turned her eyes to the pale sneering face. 
" Bethink you, Paul ! Why should you not do what he 
asks? What matter to you whether it be now or on Mon- 
day? I pray you, dear Paul, for my sake let him have 
his way! Your brother can read the service again if it 
so please him. Let us wed now, Paul, and then all is well." 

He had risen from his chair, and he dashed aside her 
appealing hands. " You foolish woman," he snarled, " and 
you, my savior of fair damsels, who are so bold against 
a cripple, you have both 'to learn that if my body be weak 
there is the soul of my breed within it ! To marry because 
a boasting, ranting, country Squire would have me do so 
no, by the soul of God, I will die first ! On Monday I will 
marry, and no day sooner, so let that be your answer." 

" It is the answer that I wished," said Nigel, " for indeed 
I see no happiness in this marriage, and the other may well 
be the better way. Stand aside, Edith ! " He gently forced 
her to one side and drew his sword. 



The Twisted Man of Shalford 137 

De la Fosse cried aloud at the sight. " I have no sword. 
You would not murder me ? " said he, leaning back with 
haggard face and burning eyes against his chair. The bright 
steel shone in the lamp-light. Edith shrank back, her hand 
over her face. 

" Take this sword ! " said Nigel, and he turned the hilt 
to the cripple. " Now ! " he added, as he drew his hunting- 
knife. " Kill me if you can, Paul de la Fosse, for as God 
is my help I will do as much for you ! " 

The woman, half swooning and yet spellbound and fasci- 
nated, looked on at that strange combat. For a moment the 
cripple stood with an air of doubt, the sword grasped in his 
nerveless fingers. Then as he saw the tiny blade in Nigel's 
hand the greatness of the advantage came home to him, 
and a cruel smile tightened his loose lips. Slowly, step by 
step he advanced, his chin sunk upon his chest, his eyes 
glaring from under the thick tangle of his brows like fires 
through the brushwood. Nigel waited for him, his left 
hand forward, his knife down by his hip, his face grave, still 
and watchful. 

Nearer and nearer yet, with stealthy step,. and then with 
a bound and a cry of hatred and rage Paul de la Fosse 
had sped his blow. It was well judged and well swung, 
but point would have been wiser than edge against that 
supple body and those active feet. Quick as a flash, Nigel 
had sprung inside the sweep of the blade, taking a flesh 
wound on his left forearm, as he pressed it under the hilt. 
The next instant the cripple was on the ground and Nigel's 
dagger was at his throat. 

" You dog ! " he whispered. " I have you at my mercy I 
Quick ere I strike, and for the last time! Will you marry 
or.no?" 

The crash of the fall and the sharp point upon his throat 
had cowed the man's spirit. He looked up with a white 
face and the sweat gleamed upon his forehead. There was 
terror in his eyes. 

" Nay, take your knife from me ! " he cried. " I cannot 
die like a calf in the shambles." 

"Will you marry?" 

" Yes, yes, I will wed her ! After all she is a good wench 



138 Sir Nigel 

and I might do worse. Let me up ! I tell you I will marry 
her ! What more would you have ? " 

Nigel stood above him with his foot upon his misshapen 
body. He had picked up his sword, and the point rested 
upon the cripple's breast. 

" Nay, you will bide where you are ! If you are to live 
and my conscience cries loud against it at least your 
wedding will be such as your sins have deserved. Lie 
there, like the crushed worm that you are ! " Then he raised 
his voice. " Father Athanasius ! " he cried. " What ho ! 
Father Athanasius ! " 

The old priest ran to the cry, and so did the Lady Mary. 
A strange sight it was that met them now in the circle of 
light, the frightened girl, half-unconscious against the table, 
the prostrate cripple, and Nigel with foot and sword upon 
his body. 

" Your book, father ! " cried Nigel. " I know not if what 
we do is good or ill ; but we must wed them, for there is no 
way out." 

But the girl by the table had given a great cry, and she 
was clinging and sobbing with her arms round her sister's 
neck. 

" Oh, Mary, I thank the Virgin that you have come ! I 
thank the Virgin that it is not too late ! What did he say ? 
He said that he was a de la Fosse and that he would not be 
married at the sword-point. My heart went out to him when 
he said it. But I, am I not a Buttesthorn, and shall it be 
said that I would marry a man who could be led to the altar 
with a knife at his throat ? No, no, I see him as he is ! I 
know him now, the mean spirit, the lying tongue! Can I 
not read in his eyes that he has indeed deceived me, that he 
would have left me as you say that he has left others ? Take 
me home, Mary, my sister, for you have plucked me back 
this night from the very mouth of Hell ! " 

And so it was that the master of Shalford, livid and 
brooding, was left with his wine at his lonely table, while 
the golden beauty of Cosford, hot with shame and anger, 
her fair face wet with tears, passed out safe from the house 
of infamy into the great calm and peace of the starry 
night. 



XIII 

HOW THE COMRADES JOURNEYED DOWN 
THE OLD, OLD ROAD 

AND now the season of the moonless nights was 
drawing nigh and the King's design was ripe. 
Very secretly his preparations were made. Al- 
ready the garrison of Calais, which consisted of five hundred 
archers and two hundred men-at-arms, could, if forewarned, 
resist any attack made upon it. But it was the King's design 
not merely to resist the attack, but to capture the attackers. 
Above all it was his wish to find the occasion for one of those 
adventurous passages of arms which had made his name 
famous throughout Christendom as the very pattern and 
leader of knight-errant chivalry. 

But the affair wanted careful handling. The arrival of 
any reinforcements, or even the crossing of any famous 
soldier, would have alarmed the French and warned them 
that their plot had been discovered. Therefore it was in 
twos and threes in the creyers and provision ships which 
were continually passing from shore to shore that the chosen 
warriors and their squires were brought to Calais. There 
they were passed at night through the water-gate into the 
castle where they could lie hidden, unknown to the towns- 
folk, until the hour for action had come. 

Nigel had received word from Chandos to join him at 
" The Sign of the Broom-Pod " in Winchelsea. Three days 
beforehand he and Aylward rode from Til ford all armed 
and ready for the wars. Nigel was in hunting-costume, 
blithe and gay, with his precious armor and his small bag- 
gage trussed upon the back of a spare horse which Aylward 
led by the bridle. The archer had himself a good black 
mare, heavy and slow, but strong enough to be fit to carry 
his powerful frame. In his brigandine of chain mail and 
his steel cap, with straight strong sword by his side, his yel- 



14.0 Sir Nigel 

low long-bow jutting over his shoulder, and his quiver of 
arrows supported by a scarlet baldric, he was such a warrior 
as any knight might well be proud to have in his train. All 
Tilford trailed behind them, as they rode slowly over the 
long slope of heath land which skirts the flank of Crooks- 
bury Hill. 

At the summit of the rise Nigel reinecl in Pommers and 
looked back at the little village behind him. There was the 
old dark manor-house, with one bent figure leaning upon a 
stick and gazing dimly after him from beside the door. He 
looked at the high-pitched roof, the timbered walls, the long 
trail of swirling blue smoke which rose from the single chim- 
ney, and the group of downcast old servants who lingered 
at the gate, John the cook, Weathercote the minstrel, and 
Red Swire the broken soldier. Over the river amid the 
trees he could see the grim, gray tower of Waverley, and 
even as he looked, the iron bell, which had so often seemed 
to be the hoarse threatening cry of an enemy, clanged out 
its call to prayer. Nigel doffed his velvet cap and prayed 
also prayed that peace might remain at home, and good 
warfare, in which honor and fame should await him, might 
still be found abroad. Then, waving his hand to the people, 
he turned his horse's -head and rode slowly eastward. A 
moment later Aylward broke from the group of archers and 
laughing girls who clung to his bridle and his stirrup straps, 
and rode on, blowing kisses over his shoulder. So at last 
the two comrades, gentle and simple, were fairly started on 
their venture. 

There are two seasons of color in those parts : the yellow, 
when the country-side is flaming with the gorse-blossoms, 
and the crimson, when all the long slopes are smoldering 
with the heather. So it was now. Nigel looked back from 
time to time, as he rode along the narrow track where the 
ferns and the ling brushed his feet on either side, and as 
he looked it seemed to him that wander where he might he 
would never see a fairer scene than that of his own home. 
Far to the westward, glowing in the morning light, rolled 
billow after billow of ruddy heather land, until they merged 
into the dark shadows of Woolmer Forest and the pale clear 
green of the Butser chalk downs. Never in his life had 



How the Comrades Journeyed 14.1 

Nigel wandered far beyond these limits, and the woodlands, 
the down and the heather were dear to his soul. It gave him 
a pang in his heart now as he turned his face away from 
them ; but if home lay to the westward, out there to the east- 
ward was the great world of adventure, the noble stage 
where each of his kinsmen in turn had played his manly 
part and left a proud name behind. 

How often he had longed for this day ! And now it had 
come with no shadow cast behind it. Dame Ermyntrude 
was under the King's protection. The old servants had 
their future assured. The strife with the monks of Waverley 
had been assuaged. He had a noble horse under him, the 
best of weapons, and a stout follower at his back. Above all 
he was bound on a gallant errand with the bravest knight 
in England as his leader. All these thoughts surged to- 
gether in his mind, and he whistled and sang, as he rode, 
out of the joy of his heart, while Pommers sidled and cur- 
veted in sympathy with the mood of his master. Presently, 
glancing back, he saw from Aylward's downcast eyes and 
puckered brow that the archer was clouded with trouble. 
He reined his horse to let him come abreast of him. 

" HOW now, Aylward ? " said he. " Surely of all men in 
England you and I should be the most blithe this morning, 
since we ride forward with all hopes of honorable advance- 
ment. By Saint Paul! ere we see these heather hills once 
more we shall either worshipfully win worship, or we shall 
venture our persons in the attempt. These be glad thoughts, 
and why should you be downcast ? " 

Aylward shrugged his broad shoulders, and a wry smile 
dawned upon his rugged face. " I am indeed as limp as a 
wetted bowstring," said he. " It is the nature of a man that 
he should be sad when he leaves the woman he loves." 

" In truth, yes ! " cried Nigel, and in a flash the dark eyes 
of Mary Buttesthorn rose before him, and he heard her low, 
sweet, earnest voice as he had heard it that night when they 
brought her frailer sister back from Shalford Manor, a 
voice which made all that was best and noblest in a man 
thrill within his soul. " Yet, bethink you, archer, that what 
a woman loves in man is not his gross body, but rather his 
soul, his honor, his fame, the deeds with which he has made 



142 Sir Nigel 

his life beautiful. Therefore you are winning love as well 
as glory when you turn to the wars." 

" It may be so," said Aylward ; " but indeed it goes to 
my heart to see the pretty dears weep, and I would fain 
weep as well to keep them company. When Mary or was 
it Dolly ? nay, it was Martha, the red-headed girl from the 
mill when she held tight to my baldric it was like snapping 
my heart-string to pluck myself loose." 

" You speak of one name and then of another," said Nigel. 
" How is she called then, this maid whom you love ? " 

Aylward pushed back his steel cap and scratched his 
bristling head with some embarrassment. " Her name," 
said he, " is Mary Dolly Martha Susan Jane Cicely Theo- 
dosia Agnes Johanna Kate." 

Nigel laughed as Aylward rolled out this prodigious title. 
" I had no right to take you to the wars," said he ; " for by 
Saint Paul! it is very clear that I have widowed half the 
parish. But I saw your aged father the franklin. Bethink 
you of the joy that will fill his heart when he hears that 
you have done some small deed in France, and so won honor 
in the eyes of all." 

" I fear that honor will not help him to pay his arrears 
of rent to the sacrist of Waverley," said Aylward. " Out 
he will go on the roadside, honor and all, if he does not find 
ten nobles by next Epiphany. But if I could win a ransom 
or be at the storming of a rich city, then indeed the old man 
would be proud of me. ' Thy sword must help my spade, 
Samkin/ said he as he kissed me good-by. Ah! it would 
indeed be a happy day for him and for all if I could ride 
back with a saddle-bag full of gold pieces, and please God, 
I shall dip my hand in somebody's pocket before I see 
Crooksbury Hill once* more! " 

Nigel shook his head, for indeed it seemed hopeless to 
try to bridge the gulf between them. Already they had 
made such good progress along the bridle-path through the 
heather that the little hill of Saint Catharine and the ancient 
shrine upon its summit loomed up before them. Here they 
crossed the road from the south to London, and at the cross- 
ing two wayfarers were waiting who waved their hands in 
greeting, the one a tall, slender, fork woman upon a white 



How the Comrades Journeyed 143 

jennet, the other a very thick and red-faced old man, whose 
weight seemed to curve the back of the stout gray cob which 
he bestrode. 

" What how, Nigel ! " he cried. " Mary has told me that 
you make a start this morning, and we have waited here 
this hour and more on the chance of seeing you pass. Come, 
lad, and have a last stoup of English ale, for many a time 
amid the sour French wines you will long for the white 
foam under your nose, and the good homely twang of it." 

Nigel had to decline the draft, for it meant riding into 
Guildford town, a mile out of his course, but very gladly 
he agreed with Mary that they should climb the path to the 
old shrine and offer' a last orison together. The knight and 
Aylward waited below with the horses ; and so it came 
about that Nigel and Mary found themselves alone under 
the solemn old Gothic arches, in front of the dark shadowed 
recess in which gleamed the golden reliquary of the saint. 
In silence they knelt side by side in prayer, and then came 
forth once more out of the gloom and the shadow into the 
fresh sunlit summer morning. They stopped ere they de- 
scended the path, and looked to right and left at the fair 
meadows and the blue Wey curling down the valley. 

" What have you prayed for, Nigel ? " said she. 

" I have prayed that God and His saints will hold my 
spirit high and will send me back from France in such a 
fashion that I may dare to come to you and to claim you 
for my own." 

" Bethink you well what it is that you say, Nigel," said 
she. " What you are to me only my own heart can tell ; but 
I would never set eyes upon your face again rather than 
abate by one inch that height of honor and worshipful 
achievement to which you may attain." 

" Nay, my dear and most sweet lady, how should you 
abate it, since it is the thought of you which will nerve my 
arm and uphold my heart ? " 

" Think once more, my fair lord, and hold yourself bound 
by no word which you have said. Let it be as the breeze 
which blows past our faces and is heard of no more. Your 
soul yearns for honor. To that has it ever turned. Is there 
room in it for love also ? or is it possible that both shall live 



144 Sir Nigel 

at their highest in one mind? Do you not call to mind that 
Galahad and other great knights of old have put women 
out of their lives that they might ever give their whole soul 
and strength to the winning of honor? May it not be that 
I shall be a drag upon you, that your heart may shrink from 
some honorable task, lest it should bring risk and pain to 
me? Think well before you answer, my fair lord, for in- 
deed my very heart would break if it should ever happen 
that through love of me your high hopes and great promise 
should miss fulfilment," 

Nigel looked at her with sparkling eyes. The soul which 
shone through her dark face had transformed it for the 
moment into a beauty more lofty and more rare than that 
of her shallow sister. He bowed before the majesty of the 
woman, and pressed his lips to her hand. " You are like 
a star upon my path which guides me on the upward way/' 
said he. " Our souls are set together upon the rinding of 
honor, and how shall we hold each other back when our pur- 
pose is the same ? " 

She shook her proud head. " So it seems to you now, fair 
lord, but it may be otherwise as the years pass. How shall 
you prove that I am indeed a help and not a hindrance? " 

" I will prove it by my deeds, fair and dear lady," said 
Nigel. " Here at the shrine of the holy Catharine, on this, 
the Feast of Saint Margaret, I take my oath that I will do 
three deeds in your honor as a proof of my high love before 
I set eyes upon your face again, and these three deeds shall 
stand as a proof to you that if I love you dearly, still I will 
not let the thought of you stand betwixt me and honorable 
achievement ! " 

Her face shone wih her love and her pride. " I also make 
my oath," said she, " and J do it in the name of the holy 
Catharine whose shrine is hard by. I swear that I will hold 
myself for you until these three deeds be done and we meet 
once more ; also that if which may dear Christ f orf end ! 
you fall in doing them then I shall take the veil in Shalford 
nunnery and look upon no man's face again ! Give me your 
hand, Nigel." 

She had taken a little bangle of gold filigree work from 
her arm and fastened it upon his sunburnt wrist, reading 



How the Comrades Journeyed 145 

aloud to him the engraved motto in old French : " Fais ce 
que dois, adviegne que pourra c'est commande au che- 
valier." Then for one moment they fell into each other's 
arms and with kiss upon kiss, a loving man and a tender 
woman, they swore their troth to each other. But the old 
knight was calling impatiently from below and together they 
hurried down the winding path to where the horses waited 
under the sandy bluff. 

As far as the Shalford crossing Sir John rode by Nigel's 
arm, and many were the last injunctions which he gave him 
concerning woodcraft, and great his anxiety lest he confuse 
a spay with a brocket, or either with a hind. At last when 
they came to the reedy edge of the Wey the old knight and 
his daughter reined up their horses. Nigel looked back at 
them ere he entered the dark Chantry woods, and saw them 
still gazing after him and waving their hands. Then the 
path wound amongst the trees and they were lost to sight ; 
but long afterwards when a clearing exposed once more the 
Shalfcrd meadows Nigel saw that the old man upon the 
gray cob was riding slowly toward Saint Catharine's Hill, 
but that the girl was still where he had seen her last, lean- 
ing forward in her saddle and straining her eyes to pierce 
the dark forest which screened her lover from her view. It 
was but a fleeting glance through a break in the foliage, and 
yet in after days of stress and toil in far distant lands it was 
that one little picture the green meadow, the reeds, the 
slow blue-winding river, and the eager bending graceful 
figure upon the white horse which was the clearest and the 
dearest image of that England which he had left behind him. 

But if Nigel's friends had learned that this was the morn- 
ing of his leaving, his enemies too were on the alert. The 
two comrades had just emerged from the Chantry woods 
and were beginning the ascent of that curving path which 
leads upward to the old Chapel of the Martyr when with 
a hiss like an angry snake a long white arrow streaked under 
Pommers and struck quivering in the grassy turf. A second 
whizzed past Nigel's ear, as he tried to turn; but Aylward 
struck the great war-horse a sharp blow over the haunches, 
and it had galloped some hundreds of yards before its rider 
could pull it up. Aylward followed as hard as he could ride, 



146 Sir Nigel 

bending low over his horse's neck, while arrows whizzed all 
around him. 

" By Saint Paul ! " said Nigel, tugging at his bridle and 
white with anger, " they shall not chase me across the coun- 
try as though I was a frighted doe. Archer, how dare you 
to lash my horse when I would have turned and ridden in 
upon them ? " 

" It is well that I did so," said Aylward, " or by these ten 
finger-bones ! our journey would have begun and ended on 
the same day. As I glanced round I saw a dozen of them 
at the least amongst the brushwood. See now how the light 
glimmers upon their steel caps yonder in the bracken under 
the great beech-tree. Nay, I pray you, my fair lord, do not 
ride forward. What chance has a man in the open against 
all these who lie at their ease in the underwood? If you 
will not think of yourself, then consider your horse, which 
would have a cloth-yard shaft feathered in its hide ere it 
could reach the wood." 

Nigel chafed in impotent anger. " Am I to be shot at 
like a popinjay at a fair, by any reaver or outlaw that seeks 
a mark for his bow ? " he cried. " By Saint Paul ! Aylward, 
I will put on my harness and go further into the matter. 
Help me to untruss, I pray you ! " 

" Nay, my fair lord, I will not help you to your own down- 
fall. It is a match with cogged dice betwixt a horseman 
on the moor and archers amid the forest. But these men are 
no outlaws, or they would not dare to draw their bows within 
a league of the sheriff of Guildford." 

" Indeed, Aylward, I think that you speak truth," said 
Nigel. " It may be that these are the men of Paul de la 
Fosse of Shalford, whom I have given little cause to love 
me. Ah ! there is indeed the very man himself." 

They sat their horses with their backs to the long slope 
which leads up to the old chapel on the hill. In front of 
them was the dark ragged edge of the wood, with a sharp 
twinkle of steel here and there in its shadows which spoke 
of these lurking foes. But now there was a long moot upon 
a horn, and at once a score of russet-clad bowmen ran for- 
ward from amid the trees, spreading out into a scattered 
line and closing swiftly in upon the travelers. In the midst 



How the Comrades Journeyed 147 

of them, upon a great gray horse, sat a small misshapen 
man, waving and cheering as one sets hounds on a badger, 
turning his head this way and that as he whooped and 
pointed, urging his bowmen onward up the slope. 

" Draw them on, my fair lord ! Draw them on until we 
have them out on the down ! " cried Aylward, his eyes shin- 
ing with joy. " Five hundred paces more, and then we may 
be on terms with them. Nay, linger not, but keep them al- 
ways just clear of arrow-shot until our turn has come/' 

Nigel shook and trembled with eagerness, as with his 
hand on his sword-hilt he looked at the line of eager hurry- 
ing men. But it flashed through his mind what Chandos 
had said of the cool head which is better for the warrior 
than the hot heart. Aylward's words were true and wise. 
He turned Pommers' head therefore, and amid a cry of de- 
rision from behind them the comrades trotted over the down. 
The bowmen broke into a run, while their leader screamed 
and waved more madly than before. Aylward cast many a 
glance at them over his shoulder. 

" Yet a little farther ! Yet a little farther still ! " he mut- 
tered. " The wind is towards them and the fools have for- 
got that I can overshoot them by fifty paces. Now, my 
good lord, I pray you for one instant to hold the horses, for 
my weapon is of more avail this day than thine can be. 
They may make sorry cheer -ere they gain the shelter of the 
wood once more." 

He had sprung from his horse, and with a downward 
wrench of his arm and a push with his knee he slipped the 
string into the upper nock of his mighty war-bow. Then 
in a flash he notched his shaft and drew it to the pile, his 
keen blue eyes glowing fiercely behind it from under his 
knotted brows. With thick legs planted sturdily apart, 
his body laid to the bow, his left arm motionless as wood, 
his right bunched into a double curve of swelling muscles 
as he stretched the white well-waxed string, he looked so 
keen and fierce a fighter that the advancing line stopped for 
an instant at the sight of him. Two or three loosed off their 
arrows, but the shafts flew heavily against the head wind, 
and snaked along the hard turf some score of paces short 
of the mark. One only, a short bandy-legged man, whose 



148 Sir Nigel 

squat figure spoke of enormous muscular strength, ran 
swiftly in and then drew so strong a bow that the arrow 
quivered in the ground at Aylward's very feet. 

" It is Black Will of Lynchmere," said the bowman. 
" Many a match have I shot with him, and I know well that 
no other man on the Surrey marches could have sped such 
a shaft. I trust that you are houseled and shriven, Will, for 
I have known you so long that I would not have your dam- 
nation upon my soul." 

He raised his bow as he spoke, and the string twanged 
with a rich deep musical note. Aylward leaned upon his 
bow-stave as he keenly watched the long swift flight of his 
shaft, skimming smoothly down the wind. 

" On him, on him ! No, over him, by my hilt ! " he cried. 
" There is more wind than I had thought. Nay, nay, friend, 
now that I have the length of you, you can scarce hope to 
loose again." 

Black Will had notched an arrow and was raising his 
bow when Aylward's second shaft passed through the shoul- 
der of his drawing arm. With a shout of anger and pain 
he dropped his weapon, and dancing in his fury he shook 
his fist and roared curses at his rival. 

" I could slay him ; but I will not, for good bowmen are 
not so common," said Aylward. " And now, fair sir, we 
must on, for they are spreading round on either side, and 
if once they get behind us, then indeed our journey has come 
to a sudden end. But ere we go I would send a shaft 
through yonder horseman who leads them on." 

" Nay, Aylward, I pray you to leave him," said Nigel. 
" Villain as he is, he is none the less a gentleman of coat- 
armor, and should die by some other weapon than thine." 

" As you will," said Aylward, with a clouded brow. " I 
have been told that in the late wars many a French prince 
and baron has not been too proud to take his death wound 
from an English yeoman's shaft, and that nobles of England 
have been glad enough to stand by and see it done." 

Nigel shook his head sadly. " It is sooth you say, archer, 
and indeed it is no new thing, for that good knight Richard 
of the Lion Heart met his end in such a lowly fashion, and 
so also did Harold the Saxon. But this is a private matter. 



How the Comrades Journeyed 149 

and I would not have you draw your bow against him. 
Neither can I ride at him myself, for he is weak in body, 
though dangerous in spirit. Therefore, we will go upon our 
way, since there is neither profit nor honor to be gained, 
nor any hope of advancement." 

Aylward, having unstrung his bow, had remounted his 
horse during this conversation, and the two rode swiftly past 
the little squat Chapel of the Martyr and over the brow of 
the hill. From the summit they looked back. The injured 
archer lay upon the ground, with several of his comrades 
gathered in a knot around him. Others ran aimlessly up 
the hill, but were already far behind. The leader sat mo- 
tionless upon his horse, and as he saw them look back he 
raised his hand and shrieked his curses at them. An instant 
later the curve of the ground had hid them from view. So, 
amid love and hate, Nigel bade adieu to the home of his 
youth. 

And now the comrades were journeying upon that old, 
old road which runs across the south of England and yet 
never turns toward London, for the good reason that the 
place was a poor hamlet when first the road was laid. From 
Winchester, the Saxon capital, to Canterbury, the holy city 
of Kent, ran that ancient highway, and on from Canterbury 
to the narrow straits where, on a clear day, the farther shore 
can be seen. Along this track as far back as history can 
trace the metals of the west have been carried and passed 
the pack-horses which bore the goods which Gaul sent in 
exchange. Older than the Christian faith and older than 
the Romans, is the old road. North and south are the woods 
and the marshes, so that only on the high dry turf of the 
chalk land could a clear track be found. The Pilgrim's 
Way, it still is called ; but the pilgrims were the last who 
ever trod it, for it was already of immemorial age before 
the death of Thomas a Becket gave a new reason why folk 
should journey to the scene of his murder. 

From the hill of Weston Wood the travelers could see the 
long white band which dipped and curved and rose over 
the green downland, its course marked even in the hollows 
by the line of the old yew-trees which flanked it. Neither 
Nigel nor Aylward had wandered far from their own coun- 



150 Sir Nigel 

try, and now they rode with light hearts and eager eyes 
taking note of all the varied pictures of nature and of man 
which passed before them. To their left was a hilly country, 
a land of rolling heaths and woods, broken here and there 
into open spaces round the occasional farm-house of a frank- 
lin. Hackhurst Down, Dunley Hill, and Ranmore Common 
swelled and sank, each merging into the other. But on the 
right, after passing the village of Shere and the old church 
of Gomshall, the whole south country lay like a map at their 
feet. There was the huge wood of the Weald, one unbroken 
forest of oak-trees stretching away to the South Downs, 
which rose olive-green against the deep blue sky. Under 
this great canopy of trees strange folk lived and evil deeds 
were done. In its recesses were wild tribes, little changed 
from their heathen ancestors, who danced round the altar 
of Thor, and well was it for the peaceful traveler that he 
could tread the high open road of the chalk land with no 
need to wander into so dangerous a tract, where soft clay, 
tangled forest and wild men all barred his progress. 

But apart from the rolling country upon the left and the 
great forest-hidden plain upon the right, there was much 
upon the road itself to engage the attention of the wayfarers. 
It was crowded with people. As far as their eyes could 
carry they could see the black dots scattered thickly upon 
the thin white band, sometimes single, sometimes several 
abreast, sometimes in moving crowds, where a drove of pil- 
grims held together for mutual protection, or a nobleman 
showed his greatness by the number of retainers who trailed 
at his heels. At that time the main roads were very crowded, 
for there were many wandering people in the land. Of all 
sorts and kinds, they passed in an unbroken stream before 
the eyes of Nigel and of Aylward, alike only in the fact that 
one and all were powdered from" their hair to their shoes 
with the gray dust of the chalk. 

There were monks journeying from one cell to another, 
Benedictines with their black gowns looped up to show their 
white skirts, Carthusians in white, and pied Cistercians. 
Friars also of the three wandering orders Dominicans in 
black, Carmelites in white and Franciscans in gray. There 
was no love lost between the cloistered monks and the free 



How the Comrades Journeyed 151 

friars, each looking on the other as a rival who took from 
him the oblations of the faithful ; so they passed on the high 
road as cat passes dog, with eyes askance and angry faces. 

Then besides the men of the church there were the men of 
trade, the merchant in dusty broadcloth and Flanders hat 
riding at the head of his line of pack-horses. He carried 
Cornish tin, West-country wool, or Sussex iron if he traded 
eastward, or if his head should be turned westward then 
he bore with him the velvets of Genoa, the ware of Venice, 
the wine of France, or the armor of Italy and Spain. Pil- 
grims were everywhere, poor people for the most part, plod- 
ding wearily along with trailing feet and bowed heads, thick 
staves in their hands and bundles over their shoulders. Here 
and there on a gaily caparisoned palfrey, or in the greater 
luxury of a horse-litter, some West-country lady might be 
seen making her easy way to the shrine of Saint Thomas. 

Besides all these a constant stream of strange vagabonds 
drifted along the road : minstrels who wandered from fair 
to fair, a foul and pestilent crew; jugglers and acrobats, 
quack doctors and tooth-drawers, students and beggars, free 
workmen in search of better wages, and escaped bondsmen 
who would welcome any wages at all. Such was the throng 
which set the old road smoking in a haze of white dust from 
Winchester to the narrow sea. 

But of all the wayfarers those which interested Nigel most 
were the soldiers. Several times they passed little knots of 
archers or men-at-arms, veterans from France, who had re- 
ceived their discharge and were now making their way to 
their southland homes. They were half drunk all of them, 
for the wayfarers treated them to beer at the frequent inns 
and ale-stakes which lined the road, so that they cheered 
and sang lustily as they passed. They roared rude pleas- 
antries at Aylward, who turned in his saddle and shouted his 
opinion of them until they were out of hearing. 

Once, late in the afternoon, they overtook a body of a 
hundred archers all marching together with two knights 
riding at their head. They were passing from Guildford Cas- 
tle to Reigate Castle, where they were in garrison. Nigel 
rode with the knights for some distance, and hinted that if 
either was in search of honorable advancement, or wished 



152 Sir Nigel 

to do some small deed, or to relieve himself of any vow, it 
might be possible to find some means of achieving it. They 
were both, however, grave and elderly men, intent upon their 
business and with no mind for fond wayside adventures, 
so Nigel quickened his pace and left them behind. 

They had left Boxhill and Headley Heath upon the left, 
and the towers of Reigate were rising amid the trees in front 
of them, when they overtook a large, cheery, red-faced man, 
with a forked beard, riding upon a good horse and exchang- 
ing a nod or a merry word with all who passed him. With 
him they rode nearly as far as Bletchingley, and Nigel 
laughed much to hear him talk ; but always under the rail- 
lery there was much earnestness and much wisdom in all 
his words. He rode at his ease about the country, he said, 
having sufficient money to keep him from want and to 
furnish him for the road. He could speak all the three 
languages of England, the north, the middle and the south, 
so that he was at home with the people of every shire and 
could hear their troubles and their joys. In all parts in 
town and in country there was unrest, he said ; for the poor 
folk were weary of their masters both of the Church and 
State, and soon there would be such doings in England as 
had never been seen before. 

But above all this man was earnest against the Church: 
its enormous wealth, its possession of nearly one-third of 
the whole land of the country, its insatiable greed for more 
at the very time when jt claimed to be poor and lowly. The 
monks and friars, too, he lashed with his. tongue: their rogu- 
ish ways, their laziness and their cunning. He showed' 
how their wealth and that of the haughty lord must always 
be founded upon the toil of poor humble Peter the Plowman, 
who worked and strove in rain and cold out in the fields, 
the butt and laughing-stock of everyone, and still bearing 
up the whole world upon his weary shoulders. He had set 
it all out in a fair parable; so now as he rode he repeated 
some of the verses, chanting them and marking time with 
his forefinger, while Nigel and Ayhvard on either side of 
him with their heads inclined inward listened with the same 
attention, but with very different feelings Nigel shocked 
at such an attack upon authority, and Aylward chuckling 



How the Comrades Journeyed 153 

as he heard the sentiments of his class so shrewdly expressed. 
At last the stranger halted his horse outside the " Five 
Angels " at Gatton. 

" It is a good inn, and I know the ale of old," said he. 
" When I had finished that ' Dream of Piers the Plowman ' 
which I have recited to you, the last verses were thus : 

" ' Now have I brought my little booke to an ende 

God's blessing be on him who a drinke will me sende' 

I pray you come in with me and share it." 

" Nay," said Nigel, " we must on our way, for we have 
far to go. But give me your name, my friend, for indeed 
we have passed a merry hour listening to your words." 

" Have a care ! " the stranger answered, shaking his head. 
"You and your class will not spend a merry hour when 
these words are turned into deeds and Peter the Plowman 
grows weary of swinking in the fields and takes up his bow 
and his staff in order to set this land in order." 

" By Saint Paul ! I expect that we shall bring Peter to 
reason and also those who have put such evil thoughts into 
his head," said Nigel. " So once more I ask your name, 
that I may know it if ever I chance to hear that you have 
been hanged ? " 

The stranger laughed good-humoredly. " You can call 
me Thomas Lackland," said he. " I should be Thomas 
Lack-brain if I were indeed to give my true name, since a 
good many robbers, some in black gowns and some in steel, 
would be glad to help me upwards in the way you speak of. 
So good-day to you, Squire, and to you also, archer, and 
may you find your way back with whole bones from the 
wars ! " 

That night the comrades slept in Godstone Priory, and 
early next morning they were well upon their road down the 
Pilgrim's Way. At Titsey it was said that a band of villeins 
were out in Westerham Wood and had murdered three men 
the day before ; so that Nigel had high hopes of an encoun- 
ter ; but the brigands showed no sign, though the travelers 
went out of their way to ride their horses along the edges 
of the forest. Farther on they found traces of their work, 



154 Sir Nigel 

for the path ran along the hillside at the base of a chalk 
quarry, and there in the cutting a man was lying dead. 
From his twisted limbs and shattered frame it was easy to 
see that he had been thrown over from above, while his 
pockets turned outward showed the reason for his murder. 
The comrades rode past without too close a survey, for dead 
men were no very uncommon objects on the King's highway, 
and if sheriff or bailiff should chance upon you near the 
body you might find yourself caught in the meshes of the 
law. 

Near Sevenoaks their road turned out of the old Canter- 
bury way and pointed south toward the coast, leaving the 
chalk lands and coming down into the clay of the Weald. 
It was a wretched, rutted mule-track running through thick 
forests with occasional clearings in which lay the small 
Kentish villages, where rude shock-headed peasants with 
smocks and galligaskins stared with bold, greedy eyes at 
the travelers. Once on the right they caught a distant view 
of the Towers of Penshurst, and once they heard the deep 
tolling of the bells of Bayham Abbey, but for the rest of 
their day's journey savage peasants and squalid cottages 
were all that met their eyes, with endless droves of pigs who 
fed upon the litter of acorns. The throng of travelers who 
crowded the old road were all gone, and only here and 
there did they meet or overtake some occasional merchant 
or messenger bound for Battle Abbey, Pevensey Castle or 
the towns of the south. 

That night they slept in a sordid inn, overrun with rats 
and with fleas, one mile south of the hamlet of Mayfield. 
Aylward scratched vigorously and cursed with fervor. Ni- 
gel lay without movement or sound. To the man who had 
learned the old rule of chivalry there were no small ills in 
life. It was beneath the dignity of his soul to stoop to 
observe them. Cold and heat, hunger and thirst, such things 
did not exist for the gentleman. The armor of his soul was 
so complete that it was proof not only against the great ills 
of life but even against the small ones; so the flea-bitten 
Nigel lay grimly still while Aylward writhed upon his couch. 

They were now but a short distance from their destina- 
tion ; but they had hardly started on their journey through 



How the Comrades Journeyed 155 

the forest next morning, when an adventure befell them 
which filled Nigel with the wildest hopes. 

Along the narrow winding path between the great oak- 
trees there rode a dark sallow man in a scarlet tabard who 
blew so loudly upon a silver trumpet that they heard the 
clanging call long before they set eyes on him. Slowly he 
advanced, pulling up every fifty paces to make the forest 
ring with another warlike blast. The comrades rode for- 
ward to meet him. 

" I pray you/' said Nigel, " to tell me who you are and 
why you blow upon this trumpet." 

The fellow shook his head, so Nigel repeated the question 
in French, the common language of chivalry, spoken at that 
age by every gentleman in Western Europe. 

The man put his lips to the trumpet and blew another 
long note before he answered. " I am Gaston de Castrier," 
said he, " the humble Squire of the most worthy and valiant 
knight Raoul de Tubiers, de Pestels, de Grimsard, de Mer- 
sac, de Leoy, de Bastanac, who also writes himself Lord of 
Pons. It is his order that I ride always a mile in front of 
him to prepare all to receive him, and he desires me to blow 
upon a trumpet not out of vainglory, but out of greatness 
of spirit, so that none may be ignorant of his coming should 
they desire to encounter him." 

Nigel sprang from his horse with a cry of joy, and began 
to unbutton his doublet. " Quick, Aylward, quick ! " he 
said. '" He comes, a knight errant comes ! Was there ever 
such a chance of worshipfully winning worship? Untruss 
the harness whilst I loose my clothes ! Good sir, I beg you 
to warn your noble and valiant master that a poor Squire 
of England would implore him to take notice of him and 
to do some small deed upon him as he passes." 

But already the Lord of Pons had come in sight. He was 
a huge man upon an enormous horse, so that together they 
seemed to fill up the whole long dark archway under the oaks. 
He was clad in full armor of a brazen hue with only his 
face exposed, and of this face there was little visible save a 
pair of arrogant eyes and a great black beard, which flowed 
through the open vizor and down over his breastplate. To 
the crest of his helmet was tied a small brown glove, nodding 



156 Sir Nigel 

and swinging above him. He bore a long lance with a red 
square banner at the end, charged with a black boar's head, 
and the same symbol was engraved upon his shield. Slowly 
he rode through the forest, ponderous, menacing, with dull 
thudding of his charger's hoofs and constant clank of metal, 
while always in front of him came the distant peal of the 
silver trumpet calling all men to admit his majesty and to 
clear his path ere they be cleared from it. 

Never in his dreams had so perfect a vision come to cheer 
Nigel's heart, and as he struggled with his clothes, glancing 
up continually at this wondrous traveler, he pattered forth 
prayers of thanksgiving to the good Saint Paul who had 
shown such loving-kindness to his unworthy servant and 
thrown him in the path of so excellent and debonair a gen- 
tleman. 

But alas ! how often at the last instant the cup is dashed 
from the lips! This joyful chance was destined to change 
suddenly to unexpected and grotesque disaster disaster so 
strange and so complete that through all his life Nigel 
flushed crimson when he thought of it. He was busily strip- 
ping his hunting-costume, and with feverish haste he had 
doffed boots, hat, hose, doublet and cloak, so that nothing 
remained save a pink jupon and pair -of silken drawers. 
At the same time Aylward was hastily unbuckling the load 
v/ith the intention of handing his master his armor piece by 
piece", when the Squire gave one last challenging peal from 
his silver trumpet into the very ear of the spare horse. 

In an instant it had taken to its heels, the precious armor 
upon its back, and thundered away down the road which 
they had traversed. Aylward jumped upon his mare, drove 
his prick spurs into her sides and galloped after the run- 
away as hard as he could ride. Thus it came about that in 
an instant Nigel was shorn of all his little dignity, had lost 
his two horses, his attendant and his outfit, and found him- 
self a lonely and unarmed man standing in his shirt and 
drawers upon the pathway down which the burly figure of 
the Lord of Pons was slowly advancing. 

The knight errant, whose mind had been filled by the 
thought of the maiden whom he had left behind at St. Jean 
the same whose glove dangled from his helmet had ob- 



How the Comrades Journeyed 157 

served nothing that had occurred. Hence, all that met 
his eyes was a noble yellow horse, which was tethered by 
the track, and a small young man, who appeared to be a 
lunatic since he had undressed hastily in the heart of the 
forest, and stood now with an eager anxious face clad in 
his underlinen amid the scattered debris of his garments. 
Of such a person the high Lord of Pons could take no no- 
tice, and so he pursued his inexorable way, his arrogant eyes 
looking out into the distance and his thoughts set intently 
upon the maiden of St. Jean. He was dimly aware that 
the little crazy man in the undershirt ran a long way beside 
him in his stockings, begging, imploring and arguing. 

" Just one hour, most fair sir, just one hour at the longest, 
and a poor Squire of England shall ever hold himself your 
debtor! Do but condescend to rein your horse until my 
harness comes back to me ! Will you not stoop to show me 
some small deed of arms? I implore you, fair sir, to spare 
me a little of your time and a handstroke or two ere you 
go upon your way ! " 

Lord de Pons motioned impatiently with his gauntleted 
hand, as one might brush away an importunate fly, but when 
at last Nigel became desperate in his clamor he thrust his 
spurs into his great war-horse, and clashing like a pair of 
cymbals he thundered off through the forest. So he rode 
upon his majestic way, until two days later he was slain 
by Lord Reginald Cobham m a field near Weybridge. 

When after a long chase Aylward secured the spare horse 
and brought it back, he found his master seated upon a 
fallen tree, his face buried in his hands and his mind clouded 
with humiliation and grief. Nothing was said, for the mat- 
ter was beyond words, and so in moody silence they rode 
upon their way. 

But soon they came upon a scene which drew Nigel's 
thoughts away from his bitter trouble, for in front of them 
there rose the towers of a great building with a small gray 
sloping village around it, and they learned from a passing 
hind that this was the hamlet and Abbey of Battle. To- 
gether they drew rein upon the low ridge and looked down 
into that valley of death from which even now the reek of 
blood seems to rise. Down beside that sinister lake and 



158 Sir Nigel 

amid those scattered bushes sprinkled over the naked flank 
of the long ridge was fought that long-drawn struggle 
betwixt two most noble foes with broad England as 
the prize of victory. Here, up and down the low hill, 
hour by hour the grim struggle had waxed and waned, 
until the Saxon army had died where it stood, King, 
court, house-carl and fyrdsman, each in their ranks even 
as they had fought. And now, after all the stress and 
toil, the tyranny, the savage revolt, the fierce suppres- 
sion, God had made His purpose complete, for here were 
Nigel the Norman and Aylward the Saxon with good-fel- 
lowship in their hearts and a common respect in their minds, 
with the same banner and the same cause, riding forth to 
do battle for their old mother England. 

And now the long ride drew to an end. In front of them 
was the blue sea, flecked with the white sails of ships. Once 
more the road passed upward from the heavy-wooded plain 
to the springy turf of the chalk downs. Far to the right rose 
the grim fortalice of Pevensey, squat and powerful, like one 
great block of rugged stone, the parapet twinkling with steel 
caps and crowned by the royal banner of England. A flat 
expanse of reeded marshland lay before them, out of which 
rose a single wooded hill, crowned with towers, with a 
bristle of masts rising out of the green plain some distance 
to the south of it. Nigel looked at it with his hand shading 
his eyes, and then urged Pommers to a trot. The town was 
Winchelsea, and there amid that cluster of houses on the 
hill the gallant Chandos must be awaiting him. 



XIV 

HOW NIGEL CHASED THE RED FERRET 

THEY passed a ferry, wound upward by a curving 
path, and then, having satisfied a guard of men- 
at-arms, were admitted through the frowning 
arch of the Pipewell Gate. There waiting for them, in the 
middle of the east street, the sun gleaming upon his lemon- 
colored beard, and puckering his single eye, stood Chandos 
himself, his legs apart, his hands behind his back, and a wel- 
coming smile upon his quaint high-nosed face. Behind him 
a crowd of little boys were gazing with reverent eyes at the 
famous soldier. 

" Welcome, Nigel ! " said he, " and you also, good archer ! 
I chanced to be walking on the city wall, and I thought from 
the color of your horse that it was indeed you upon the 
Udimore Road. How have you fared, young squire errant ? 
Have you held bridges or rescued damsels or slain op- 
pressors on your way from Tilf ord ? " 

" Nay, my fair lord, I have accomplished nothing ; but I 
once had hopes " Nigel flushed at the remembrance. 

" I will give you more than hopes, Nigel. I will put you 
where you can dip both arms to the elbow into danger and 
honor, where peril will sleep with you at night and rise 
with you in the morning and the very air you breathe be 
laden with it. Are you ready for that, young sir ? " 

" I can but pray, fair lord, that my spirit will rise to it." 

Chandos smiled his approval and laid his thin brown hand 
on the youth's shoulder. " Good ! " said he. " It is the 
mute hound which bites the hardest. The babbler is ever 
the hang-back. Bide with me here, Nigel, and walk upon 
the ramparts. Archer, do you lead the horses to the ' Sign 
of the Broom Pod ' in the high street, and tell my varlets 
to see them aboard the cog Thomas before nightfall. We sail 
at the second hour after curfew. Come hither, Nigel, to 



160 Sir Nigel 

the crest of the corner turret, for from it I will show you 
what you have never seen." 

It was but a dim and distant white cloud upon the blue 
water seen far off over the Dungeness Point, and yet the 
sight of it flushed the young Squire's cheeks and sent the 
blood hot through his veins. It was the fringe of France, 
that land of chivalry and glory, the stage where name and 
fame were to be won. With burning eyes he gazed across 
at it, his heart rejoicing to think that the hour was at hand 
when he might tread that sacred soil. Then his gaze crossed 
the immense stretch of the blue sea, dotted over with the 
sails of fishing-boats^ until it rested upon the double harbor 
beneath packed with vessels of every size and* shape, from 
the pessoners and creyers which plied up and down the coast 
to the great cogs and galleys which were used either as 
war-ships or merchantmen as the occasion served. One of 
them was at that instant passing out to sea, a huge galleass, 
with trumpets blowing and nakers banging, the flag of Saint 
George flaunting over the broad purple sail, and the decks 
sparkling from end to end with steel. Nigel gave a cry 
of pleasure at the splendor of the sight. 

" Aye, lad," said Chandos, " it is the Trinity of Rye, 
the very ship on which I fought at Sluys. Her deck ran 
blood from stem to stern that day. But turn your eyes this 
way, I beg you, and tell me if you see aught strange about 
this town." 

Nigel looked down at the noble straight street, at the 
Roundel Tower, at the fine church of Saint Thomas, and 
the other fair buildings of Winchelsea. " It is all new," said 
he " church, castle, houses, all are new." 

" You are right, fair son. My grandfather can call to 
mind the time when only the conies lived upon this rock. 
The town was down yonder by the sea, until one night the 
waves rose upon it and not a house was left. See, yonder 
is Rye, huddling also on a hill, the two towns like poor sheep 
when the waters are out. But down there under the blue 
water and below the Camber Sand lies the true Winchelsea 
-tower, cathedral, walls and all, even as my grandfather 
knew it, when the first Edward was young upon the throne." 

For an hour or more Chandos paced upon the ramparts 



Nigel Chased the Red Ferret 161 

with his young Squire at his elbow and talked to him of his 
duties and of the secrets and craft of warfare, Nigel drink- 
ing in and storing in his memory every word from so revered 
a teacher. Many a time in after life, in stress and in dan- 
ger, he strengthened himself by the memory of that slow 
walk with the blue sea on one side and the fair town on the 
other, when the wise soldier and noble-hearted knight 
poured forth his precept and advice as the master-workman 
to the apprentice. 

" Perhaps, fair son," said he, " you are like so many other 
lads who ride to the wars, and know so much already that 
it is waste of breath to advise them ? " 

" Nay, my fair lord, I know nothing save that I would 
fain do my duty and either win honorable advancement or 
die worshipful on the field." 

" You are wise to be humble," said Chandos ; " for indeed 
he who knows most of war knows best that there is much 
to learn. As there is a mystery of the rivers and a mystery 
of woodcraft, even so there is a mystery of warfare by which, 
battles may be lost and gained; for all nations are brave, 
and where the brave meets the brave it is he who is crafty 
and war-wise who will win the day. The best hound will 
run at fault if he be ill laid on, and the best hawk will fly 
at check if he be badly loosed, and even so the bravest army 
may go awry if it be ill handled. There are not in Christen- 
dom better knights and squires than those of the French, 
and yet we have had the better of them, for in our Scottish 
Wars and elsewhere we have learned more of this same mys- 
tery of which I speak." 

" And wherein lies our wisdom, honored sir ? " asked 
Nigel. " I also would fain be war-wise and learn to fight 
with my wits as well as with my sword." 

Chandos shook his head and smiled. " It is in the forest 
and on the down that you learn to fly the hawk and loose 
the hound," said he. " So also it is in camp and on the field 
that the mystery of war can be learned. There only has 
every great captain come to be its master. To start he must 
have a cool head, quick to think, soft as wax before his 
purpose is formed, hard as steel when once he sees it before 
him. Ever alert he must be, and cautious also, but with 



1 62 Sir Nigel 

judgment to turn his caution into rashness where a large 
gain may be put against a small stake. An eye for country 
also, for the trend of the rivers, the slope of the hills, the 
cover of the woods, and the light green of the bog-land." 

Poor Nigel, who had trusted to his lance and to Pommers 
to break his path to glory, stood aghast at this list of needs. 
" Alas ! " he cried. " How am I to gain all this ? I, who 
could scarce learn to read or write though the good Father 
Matthew broke a hazel stick a day across my shoulders ? " 

" You will gain it, fair son, where others have gained it 
before you. You have that which is the first thing of all, a 
heart of fire from which other colder hearts may catch a 
spark. But you must have knowledge also of that which 
warfare has taught us in olden times. We know, par ex- 
emple, that horsemen alone cannot hope to win against good 
foot-soldiers. Has it not been tried at Courtrai, at Stirling, 
and again under my own eyes at Crecy, where the chivalry 
of France went down before our bowmen ? " 

Nigel stared at him, with a perplexed brow. " Fair sir, 
my heart grows heavy as I hear you. Do you then say that 
our chivalry can make no head against archers, billmen and 
the like?" 

" Nay, Nigel, for it has also been very clearly shown that 
the best foot-soldiers unsupported cannot hold their own 
against the mailed horsemen." 

" To whom then is the victory ? " asked Nigel. 

" To him who can mix his horse and foot, using each to 
strengthen the other. Apart they are weak. Together they 
are strong. The archer who can weaken the enemy's line, 
the horseman who can break it when it is weakened, as was 
done at Falkirk and Duplin, there is the secret of our 
strength. Now touching this same battle of Falkirk, I pray 
you for one instant to give it your attention." 

With his whip he began to trace a plan of the Scottish 
battle upon the dust, and Nigel with knitted brows was try- 
ing hard to muster his small stock of brains and to profit 
by the lecture, when their conversation was interrupted by 
a strange new arrival. 

It was a very stout little man, wheezy and purple with 
haste, who scudded down the rampart as if he were blown 



Nigel Chased the Red Ferret 163 

by the wind, his grizzled hair flying and his long black gown 
floating behind him. He was clad in the dress of a respect- 
able citizen, a black jerkin trimmed with sable, a black- 
velvet beaver hat and a white feather. At the sight of Chan- 
dos he gave a cry of joy and quickened his pace so that when 
he did at last reach him he could only stand gasping and 
waving his hands. 

" Give yourself time, good Master Wintersole, give your- 
self time ! " said Chandos in a soothing voice. 

" The papers ! " gasped the little man. " Oh, my Lord 
Chandos, the papers ! " 

" What of the papers, my worthy sir ? " 

" I swear by our good patron Saint Leonard, it is no fault 
of mine ! I had locked them in my coffer. But the lock was 
forced and the coffer rifled/' 

A shadow of anger passed over the soldier's keen face. 

" How now, Master Mayor ? Pull your wits together and 
do not stand there babbling like a three-year child. Do you 
say that some one hath taken the papers ? " 

" It is sooth, fair sir ! Thrice I have been Mayor of the 
town, and fifteen years burgess and jurat, but never once 
has any public matter gone awry through me. Only last 
month there came an order from Windsor on a Tuesday 
for a Friday banquet, a thousand soles, four thousand plaice, 
two thousand mackerel, five hundred crabs, a thousand lob- 
sters, five thousand whiting " 

" I doubt not, Master Mayor, that you are an excellent 
fishmonger; but the matter concerns the papers I gave into 
your keeping. Where are they ? " 

" Taken, fair sir gone ! " 

" And who hath dared to take them ? " 

" Alas ! I know not. It was but for as long as you would 
say an angelus that I left the chamber, and when I came 
back there was the coffer, broken and empty, upon my 
table." 

" Do you suspect no one ? " 

" There was a varlet who hath come with the last few 
days into my employ. He is not to be found, and I have sent 
horsemen along both the Udimore road and that to Rye, that 
they may seize him. By the help of Saint Leonard they can 



164 Sir Nigel 

scarce miss him, for one can tell him a bow-shot off by his 
hair." 

" Is it red ? " asked Chandos eagerly. " Is it fox-red, and 
the man a small man pocked with sun-spots, and very quick 
in his movements ? " 

" It is the man himself." 

Chandos shook his clenched hand with annoyance, and 
then set off swiftly down the street. 

" It is Peter the Red Ferret once more ! " said he. " I 
knew him of old in France, where he has done us more harm 
than a company of men-at-arms. He speaks English as he 
speaks French, and he is of such daring and cunning that 
nothing is secret from him. In all France there is no more 
dangerous man, for though he is a gentleman of blood and 
coat-armor he takes the part of a spy, because it hath the 
more danger and therefore the more honor." 

" But, my fair lord," cried the Mayor, as he hurried along, 
keeping pace with the long strides of the soldier, " I knew 
that you warned me to take all care of the papers ; but surely 
there was no matter of great import in it? It was but to 
say what stores were to be sent after you to Calais ? " 

"Is that not everything?" cried Chandos impatiently. 
" Can you not see, oh foolish Master Wintersole, that the 
French suspect we are about to make some attempt and that 
they have sent Peter the Red Ferret, as they have sent him 
many times before, to get tidings of whither we are bound ? 
Now that he knows that the stores are for Calais, then the 
French near Calais will take his warning, and so the King's 
whole plan come to nothing." 

" Then he will fly by water. We can stop him yet. He 
has not an hour's start." 

" It may be that a boat awaits him at Rye or Hythe ; but 
it is more like that he has all ready to depart from here. 
Ah, see yonder! I'll warrant that the Red Ferret is on 
board ! " 

Chandos had halted in front of his inn, and now he pointed 
down to the outer harbor, which lay two miles off across 
the green plain. It was connected by a long winding canal 
with the inner dock at the base of the hill, upon which the 
town was built. Between the two horns formed by the short 



Nigel Chased the Red Ferret 165 

curving piers a small schooner was running out to sea, dip- 
ping and rising before a sharp southerly breeze. 

" It is no Winchelsea boat," said the Mayor. " She is 
longer and broader in the beam than ours." 

" Horses ! bring horses ! " cried Chandos. " Come, Nigel, 
let us go further into the matter." 

A busy crowd of varlets, archers, and men-at-arms 
swarmed round the gateway of the " Sign of the Broom 
Pod," singing, shouting, and jostling in rough good-fellow- 
ship. The sight of the tall thin figure of Chandos brought 
order amongst them, and a few minutes later the horses 
were ready and saddled. A breakneck ride down a steep 
declivity, and then a gallop of two miles over the sedgy 
plain carried them to the outer harbor. A dozen vessels 
were lying there, ready to start for Bordeaux or Rochelle, 
and the quay was thick with sailors, laborers and townsmen 
and heaped with wine-barrels and wool-packs. 

"Who is warden here?" asked Chandos, springing from 
his horse. 

"Badding! Where is Cock Badding? Badding is war- 
den ! " shouted the crowd. 

A moment later a short swarthy man, bull-necked and 
deep-chested, pushed through the people. He was clad in 
rough russet wool with a scarlet cloth tied round his black 
curly head. His sleeves were rolled up to his shoulders, 
and his brown arms, all stained with grease and tar, were 
like two thick gnarled branches from an oaken stump. His 
savage brown face was fierce and frowning, and was split 
from chin to temple with the long white wale of an ill-healed 
wound. 

" How now, gentles, will you never wait your turn ? " 
he rumbled in a deep angry voice. " Can you not see that we 
are warping the Rose of Guienne into midstream for the 
ebb-tide ? Is this a time to break in upon us ? Your goods 
will go aboard in due season, I promise you; so ride back 
into the town and find such pleasure as you may, while I and 
my mates do our work without let or hindrance." 

" It is the gentle Chandos ! " cried some one in the crowd. 
" It is the good Sir John." 

The rough harbor-master changed his gruffness to smiles 



1 66 Sir Nigel 

in an instant. " Nay, Sir John, what would you ? I pray 
you to hold me excused if I was short of speech, but we 
port-wardens are sore plagued with foolish young lordlings, 
who get betwixt us and our work and blame us because we 
do not turn an ebb-tide into a flood, or a south wind into 
a north. I pray you to tell me how I can serve you." 

" That boat ! " said Chandos, pointing to the already dis- 
tant sail rising and falling on the waves. " What is it? " 

Cock Badding shaded his keen eyes with his strong brown 
hand. " She has but just gone out," said he. " She is La 
Pucelle, a small wine-sloop from Gascony, home-bound and 
laden with barrel-staves." 

" I pray you did any man join her at the very last ? " 

" Nay, I know not. I saw no one." 

" But I know," cried a seaman in the crowd. " I was 
standing at the wharf-side and was nigh knocked into the 
water by a little red-headed fellow, who breathed as though 
he had run from the town. Ere I had time to give him a 
cuff he had jumped aboard, the ropes were cast off, and her 
nose was seaward." 

In a few words Chandos made all clear to Badding, 
the crowd pressing eagerly round. 

" Aye, aye ! " cried a seaman, " the good Sir John is right. 
See how she points. It is Picardy and not Gascony that she 
will fetch this journey in spite of her wine-staves." 

" Then we must lay her aboard ! " cried Cock Badding. 
" Come, lads, here is my own Marie Rose ready to cast off. 
Who's for a trip with a fight at the end of it? " 

There was a rush for the boat ; but the stout little seaman 
picked his men. " Go back, Jerry ! Your heart is good, but 
you are overfat for the work. You, Luke, and you, Thomas, 
and the two Deedes, and William of Sandgate. You will 
work the boat. And now we need a few men of their hands. 
Do you come, little sir ? " 

" I pray you, my dear lord, to let me go ! " cried Nigel. 

" Yes, Nigel, you can go, and I will bring your gear over 
to Calais this night." 

" I will join you there, fair sir, and with the help of Saint 
Paul I will bring this Red Ferret with me." 

" Aboard, aboard ! Time passes ! " cried Badding impa- 



Nigel Chased the Red Ferret 167 

tiently, while already his seamen were hauling on the line 
and raising the mainsail. " Now then, sirrah ! who are you? " 

It was Aylward, who had followed Nigel and was pushing 
his way aboard. 

" Where my master goes I go also," cried Aylward, " so 
stand clear, master-shipman, or you may come by a hurt." 

" By Saint Leonard ! archer," said Cock Badding, " had 
I more time I would give you a lesson ere I leave land. 
Stand back and give place to others ! " 

" Nay, stand back and give place to me ! " cried Aylward, 
and seizing Badding round the waist he slung him into the 
dock. 

There was a cry of anger from the crowd, for Badding 
was the hero of all the Cinque Ports and had never yet met 
his match in manhood. The epitaph still lingers in which 
it was said that he " could never rest until he had foughten 
his fill." When, therefore, swimming like a duck, he reached 
a rope and pulled himself hand over hand up to the quay, 
all jtood aghast to see what fell fate would befall this bold 
stranger. But Badding laughed loudly, dashing the salt- 
water from his eyes and hair. 

" You have fairly won your place, archer," said he. 
" You are the very man for our work. Where is Black 
Simon of Norwich ? " 

A tall dark young man with a long, stern, lean face came 
forward. " I am with you, Cock," said he, " and I thank 
you for my place." 

" You can come, Hugh Baddlesmere, and you, Hal Mas- 
ters, and you, Dicon of Rye. That is enough. Now off, 
in God's name, or it will be night ere we can come up with 
them ! " 

Already the head-sails and the mainsail had been raised, 
while a hundred willing hands poled her off from the wharf. 
Now the wind caught her ; heeling over, and quivering with 
eagerness like an unleashed hound she flew through the 
opening and out into the Channel. She was a famous little 
schooner, the Marie Rose of Winchelsea, and under her dar- 
ing owner Cock Badding, half trader and half pirate, had 
brought back into port many a rich cargo taken in mid- 
Channel, and paid for in blood rather than money. Small 



i68 Sir Nigel 

as she was, her great speed and the fierce character of her 
master had made her a name of terror along the French 
coast, and many a bulky Eastlander or Fleming as he passed 
the narrow seas had scanned the distant Kentish shore, fear- 
ing lest that ill-omened purple sail with a gold Christopher 
upon it should shoot out suddenly from the dim gray cliffs. 
Now she was clear of the land, with the wind on her larboard 
quarter, every inch of canvas set, and her high sharp bows 
smotiifered in foam, as she dug through the waves. 

Cock Badding trod the deck with head erect and jaunty 
bearing, glancing up at the swelling sails and then ahead 
at the little tilted white triangle, which stood out clear and 
hard against the bright blue sky. Behind was the lowland 
of the Camber marshes, with the bluffs of Rye and Winchel- 
sea, and the line of cliffs behind them. On the larboard 
bow rose the great white walls of Folkestone and of Dover, 
and far on the distant sky-line the gray shimmer of those 
French cliffs for which the fugitives were making. 

" By Saint Paul ! " cried Nigel, looking with eager eyes 
over the tossing waters, " it seems to me, Master Badding, 
that already we draw in upon them." 

The master measured the distance with his keen steady 
gaze, and then looked up at the sinking sun. " We have still 
four hours of daylight," said he ; " but if we do not lay her 
aboard ere darkness falls she will save herself, for the nights 
are as black as a wolf's mouth, and if she alter her course 
I know not how we may follow her." 

" Unless, indeed, you might guess to which port she was 
bound and reach it before her." 

" Well thought of, little master ! " cried Badding. " If 
the news be for the French outside Calais, then Ambleteuse 
would be nearest to Saint Omer. But my sweeting sails 
three paces to that lubber's two, and if the wind holds we 
shall have time and to spare. How now, archer? You do 
not seem so eager as when you made your way aboard this 
boat by slinging me into the sea." 

Aylward sat on the upturned keel of a skiff which lay 
upon the deck. He groaned sadly and held his green face 
between his two hands. " I would gladly sling you into the 
sea once more, master-shipman," said he, " if by so doing 



NigeL Chased the Red Ferret 169 

I could get off this most accursed vessel of thine. Or if you 
would wish to have your turn, then I would thank you if 
you would lend me a hand over the side, for indeed I am but 
a useless weight upon your deck. Little did I think that Sam- 
kin Aylward could be turned into a weakling by an hour of 
salt water. Alas the day that ever my foot wandered from 
the good red heather of Crooksbury ! " 

Cock Badding laughed loud and long. " Nay, take k not 
to heart, archer," he cried ; " for better men than you or I 
have groaned upon this deck. The Prince himself with ten 
of his chosen knights crossed with me once, and eleven sad- 
der faces I never saw. Yet within a month they had shown 
at Crecy that they were no weaklings, as you will do also, 
I dare swear, when the time comes. Keep that thick head 
of thine down upon the planks, and all will be well anon. 
But we raise her, we raise her with every blast of the 
wind ! " 

It was indeed evident, even to the inexperienced eyes of 
Nigel, that the Marie Rose was closing in swiftly upon the 
stranger. She was a heavy, bluff-bowed, broad-sterned ves- 
sel which labored clumsily through the seas. The swift, 
fierce little Winchelsea boat swooping and hissing through 
the waters behind her was like some keen hawk whizzing 
down wind at the back of a flapping heavy-bodied duck. 
Half an hour before La Pucelle had been a distant patch of 
canvas. Now they could see the black hull, and soon the 
cut of her sails and the lines of her bulwarks. There were 
at least a dozen men upon her deck, and the twinkle of 
weapons from amongst them showed that they were pre- 
paring to resist. Cock Badding began to muster his own 
forces. 

He had a crew of seven rough, hardy mariners, who had 
been at his back in many a skirmish. They were armed 
with short swords, but Cock Badding carried a weapon pe- 
culiar to himself, a twenty-pound blacksmith's hammer, 
the memory of which, as " Badding's cracker," still lingers 
in the Cinque Ports. Then there were the eager Nigel, the 
melancholy Aylward, Black Simon who was a tried swords- 
man, and three archers, Baddlesmere, Masters and Dicon of 
Rye, all veterans of the French War. The numbers in the 



170 Sir Nigel 



two vessels might be about equal ; but Badding as he glanced 
at the bold harsh faces which looked to him for orders had 
little fear for the result. 

Glancing round, however, he saw something which was 
more dangerous to his plans than the resistance of the 
enemy. The wind, which had become more fitful and fee- 
bler, now fell suddenly away, until the sails hung limp and 
straight above them. A belt of calm lay along the horizon, 
and the waves around had smoothed down into a long oily 
swell on which the two little vessels rose and fell. The great 
boom of the Marie Rose rattled and jarred with every lurch, 
and the high thin prow pointed skyward one instant and sea- 
ward the next in a way that drew fresh groans from the 
unhappy Aylward. In vain Cock Badding pulled on his 
sheets and tried hard to husband every little wandering gust 
which ruffled for an instant the sleek rollers. The French 
master was as adroit a sailor, and his boom swung round 
also as each breath of wind came up from astern. 

At last even these fitful puffs died finally away, and a 
cloudless sky overhung a glassy sea. The sun was almost 
upon the horizon behind Dungeness Point, and the whole 
western heaven was bright with the glory of the sunset, 
which blended sea and sky in one blaze of ruddy light. Like 
rollers of molten gold, the long swell heaved up Channel 
from the great ocean beyond. In the midst of the immense 
beauty and peace of nature the two little dark specks with 
the white sail and the purple rose and fell, so small upon the 
vast shining bosom of the waters, and yet so charged with 
all the unrest and the passion of life. 

The experienced eye of the seaman told him that it was 
hopeless to expect a breeze before nightfall. He looked 
across at the Frenchman, which lay less than a quarter of 
a mile ahead, and shook his gnarled fist at the line of heads 
which could be seen looking back over her stern. One of 
them waved a white kerchief in derision, and Cock Badding 
swore a bitter oath at the sight. 

" By Saint Leonard of Winchelsea," he cried, " I will rub 
my side up against her yet ! Out with the skiff, lads, and 
two of you to the oars. Make fast the line to the mast, 
Will. Do you go in the boat, Hugh, and I'll make the sec- 



Nigel Chased the Red Ferret 171 

ond. Now if we bend our backs to it we may have them yet 
ere night cover them." 

The little skiff was swiftly lowered over the side and the 
slack end of the cable fastened to the after thwart. Cock 
Badding and his comrades pulled as if they would snap 
their oars, and the little vessel began slowly to lurch forward 
over the rollers. But the next moment a larger skiff had 
splashed over the side of the Frenchman, and no less than 
four seamen were hard at work under her bows. If the 
Marie Rose advanced a yard the Frenchman was going two. 
Again Cock Badding raved and shook his fist. He clam- 
bered aboard, his face wet with sweat and dark with anger. 

" Curse them ! they have had the best of us ! " he cried. 
" I can do no more. Sir John has lost his papers, for indeed 
now that night is at hand I can see no way in which we can 
gain them." 

Nigel had leaned against the bulwark during these events, 
watching with keen attention the doings of the sailors, and 
praying alternately to Saint Paul, Saint George, and Saint 
Thomas for a slant of wind which would put them along- 
side their enemy. He was silent ; but his hot heart was sim- 
mering within him. His spirit had risen even above the dis- 
comfort of the sea, and his mind was too absorbed in his 
mission to have a thought for that which had laid Aylward 
flat upon the deck. He had never doubted that Cock Bad- 
ding in one way or another would accomplish his end, but 
when he heard his speech of despair he bounded off the bul- 
wark and stood before the seaman with his face flushed and 
all his soul afire. 

" By Saint Paul ! master-shipman," he cried, " we should 
never hold up our heads in honor if we did not go further 
into the matter ! Let us do some small deed this night upon 
the water, or let us never see land again, for indeed we could 
not wish fairer prospect of winning honorable advancement." 

" With your leave, little master, you speak like a fool," 
said the gruff seaman. " You and all your kind are as chil- 
dren when once the blue water is beneath you. Can you not 
see that there is no wind, and that the Frenchman can warp 
her as swiftly as we ? What then would you do ? " 

Nigel pointed to the boat which towed astern. " Let us 



172 Sir Nigel 

venture forth in her," said he, " and let us take this ship 
or die worshipful in the attempt." 

His bold and fiery words found their echo in the brave 
rough hearts around him. There was a deep-chested shout 
from both archers and seamen. Even Aylward sat up, with 
a wan smile upon his green face. 

But Cock Badding shook his head. " I have never met 
the man who could lead where I would not follow," said he ; 
" but by Saint Leonard ! this is a mad business, and I should 
be a fool if I were to risk my men and my ship. Bethink 
you, little master, that the skiff can hold only five, though 
you load her to the water's edge. If there is a man yonder, 
there are fourteen, and you have to climb their side from 
the boat. What chance would you have? Your boat stove 
and you in the water there is the end of it. No man of 
mine goes on such a fool's errand, and so I swear ! " 

" Then, Master Badding, I must crave the loan of your 
skiff, for by Saint Paul ! the good Lord Chandos' papers are 
not to be so lightly lost. If no one else will come, then I will 
go alone." 

The shipman smiled at the words ; but the smile died away 
from his lips when Nigel, with features set like ivory and 
eyes as hard as steel, pulled on the rope so as to bring the 
skiff under the counter. It was very clear that he would 
do even as he said. At the same time Aylward raised his 
bulky form from the deck, leaned for a moment against the 
bulwarks, and then tottered aft to his master's side. 

" Here is one that will go with you," said he, " or he 
would never dare show his face to the girls of Tilford again. 
Come, archers,- let us leave these salt herrings in their pickle 
tub and try our luck out on the water." 

The three archers at once ranged themselves on the same 
side as their comrade. They were bronzed, bearded men, 
short in stature, as were most Englishmen of that day, but 
hardy, strong and skilled with their weapons. Each drew 
his string from its waterproof case and bent the huge arc 
of his war-bow as he fitted it into the nocks. 

" Now, master, we are at your back," said they as they 
pulled and tightened their sword-belts. 

But already Cock Badding had been carried away by the 



Nigel Chased the Red Ferret 173 

hot lust of battle and had thrown aside every fear and doubt 
which had clouded him. To see a fight and not to be in it 
was more than he could bear. 

" Nay, have it your own way ! " he cried, " and may Saint 
Leonard help us, for a madder venture I have never seen! 
And yet it may be worth the trial. But if it be done let me 
have the handling of it, little master, for you know no more 
of a boat than I do of a war-horse. The skiff can bear five 
and not a man more. Now, who will come ? " 

They had all caught fire, and there was not one who would 
be left out. 

Badding picked up his hammer. " I will come myself," 
said he, " and you also, little master, since it is your hot head 
that has planned it. Then there is Black Simon, the best 
sword of the Cinque Ports. Two archers can pull on the 
oars, and it may be that they can pick off two or three of 
these Frenchmen before we close with them. Hugh Bad- 
dlesmere, and you, Dicon of Rye into the boat with you ! " 

" What? " cried Aylward. " Am I to be left behind? I, 
who am the Squire's own man? Ill fare the bowman who 
comes betwixt me and yonder boat ! " 

" Nay, Aylward," said his master, " I order that you stay, 
for indeed you are a sick man." 

" But now that the waves have sunk I am myself again. 
Nay, fair sir, I pray that you will not leave me behind." 

" You must needs take the space of a better man ; for 
what do you know of the handling of a boat ? " said Badding 
shortly. " No more fool's talk, I pray you, for the night will 
soon fall. Stand aside ! " 

Aylward looked hard at the French boat. " I could swim 
ten times up and down Frensham pond," said he, " and it 
will be strange if I cannot go as far as that. By these finger- 
bones, Samkin Aylward may be there as soon as you ! " 

The little boat with its five occupants pushed off from the 
side of the schooner, and dipping and rising, made its slow 
way toward the Frenchman. Badding and one archer had 
single oars, the second archer was in the prow, while Black 
Simon and Nigel huddled into the stern with the water lap- 
ping and hissing at their very elbows. A shout of defiance 
rose from the Frenchmen, and they stood in a line along 



174 Sir Nigel 

the side of their vessel shaking their fists and waving their 
weapons. Already the sun was level with Dungeness, and 
the gray of evening was blurring sky and water into one 
dim haze. A great silence hung over the broad expanse of 
nature, and no sound broke it save the dip and splash of the 
oars and the slow deep surge of the boat upon the swell. 
Behind them their comrades of the Marie Rose stood mo- 
tionless and silent, watching their progress with eager eyes. 

They were near enough now to have a good look at the 
Frenchmen. One was a big swarthy man with a long black 
beard. He had a red cap and an ax over his shoulder. 
There were ten other hardy-looking fellows, all of them well 
armed, and there were three who seemed to be boys. 

" Shall we try a shaft upon them ? " asked Hugh Baddies- 
mere. " They are well within our bowshot." 

" Only one of you can shoot at a time, for you have no 
footing," said Badding. " With one foot in the prow and 
one over the thwart you will get your stance. Do what you 
may, and then we will close in upon them." 

The archer balanced himself in the rolling boat with the 
deftness of a man who has been trained upon the sea, for 
he was born and bred in the Cinque Ports. Carefully he 
nocked his arrow, strongly he drew it, steadily he loosed it, 
but the boat swooped at the instant, and it buried itself in 
the waves. The second passed over the little ship, and the 
third struck in her black side. Then in quick succession 
so quick that two shafts were often in the air at the same 
instant he discharged a dozen arrows, most of which just 
cleared the bulwarks and dropped upon the deck. There 
was a cry on the Frenchman, and the heads vanished from 
the side. 

" Enough ! " cried Badding. " One is down, and it may 
be two. Close in, close in, in God's name, before they rally ! " 

He and the other bent to their oars ; but at the same in- 
stant there was a sharp zip in the air and a hard clear sound 
like a stone striking a wall. Baddlesmere clapped his hand to 
his head, groaned and fell forward out of the boat, leaving 
a swirl of blood upon the surface. A moment later the 
same fierce hiss ended in a loud wooden crash, and a short, 
thick crossbow-bolt was buried deep in the side of their boat. 



Nigel Chased the Red Ferret 175 

" Close in, close in ! " roared Badding, tugging at his oar. 
" Saint George for England ! Saint Leonard for Winchel- 
sea ! Close in ! " 

But again that fatal crossbow twanged. Dicon of Rye 
fell back with a shaft through his shoulder. " God help me, 
I can no more ! " said he. 

Badding seized the oar from his hand; but it was only 
to sweep the boat's head round and pull her back to the 
Marie Rose. The attack had failed. 

" What now, master-shipman ? " cried Nigel. " What has 
befallen to stop us ? Surely the matter does not end here ? " 

" Two down out of five," said Badding, " and twelve at 
the least against us. The odds are too long, little master. 
Let us at least go back, fill up once more, and raise a man- 
telet against the bolts, for they have an arbalist which shoots 
both straight and hard. But what we do we must do quickly, 
for the darkness falls apace. " 

Their repulse had been hailed by wild yells of delight from 
the Frenchmen, who danced with joy and waved their 
weapons madly over their heads. But before their rejoi- 
cings had finished they saw the little boat creeping out once 
more from the shadow of the Marie Rose, a great wooden 
screen in her bows to protect her from the arrows. With- 
out a pause she came straight and fast for her enemy. The 
wounded archer had been put on board, and Aylward would 
have had his place had Nigel been able to see him upon the 
deck. The third archer, Hal Masters, had sprung in, and 
one of the seamen, Wat Finnis of Hythe. With their hearts 
hardened to conquer or to die, the five ran alongside the 
Frenchman and sprang upon her deck. At the same instant 
a great iron weight crashed through the bottom of their 
skiff, and their feet had hardly left her before she was gone. 
There was no hope and no escape save victory. 

The crossbowman stood under the mast, his terrible wea- 
pon at his shoulder, the steel string stretched taut, the heavy 
bolt shining upon the nut. One life at least he would claim 
out of this little band. Just for one instant too long did he 
dwell upon his aim, shifting from the seaman to Cock Bad- 
ding, whose formidable appearance showed him to be the 
better prize. In that second of time Hal Masters' string 



176 Sir Nigel 

twanged and his long arrow sped through the arbalister's 
throat. He dropped on the deck, with blood and curses 
pouring from his mouth. 

A moment later Nigel's sword and Badding's hammer had 
each claimed a victim and driven back the rush of assail- 
ants. The five were safe upon the deck, but it was hard for 
them to keep a footing there. The French seamen, Bretons 
and Normans, were stout, powerful fellows, armed with 
axes and swords, fierce fighters and brave men. They 
swarmed round the little band, attacking them from all sides. 
Black Simon felled the black-bearded French Captain, and at 
the same instant was cut over the head and lay with his scalp 
open upon the deck. The seaman Wat of Hythe was killed 
by a crashing blow from an ax. Nigel was struck down, 
but was up again like a flash, and drove his sword through 
the man who had felled him. 

But Badding, Masters the archer and he had been hustled 
back to the bulwark and were barely holding their own from 
minute to minute against the fierce crowd who assailed them, 
when an arrow coming apparently from the sea struck the 
foremost Frenchman to the heart. A moment later a boat 
dashed up alongside and four more men from the Marie 
Rose scrambled on to the blood-stained deck. With one 
fierce rush the remaining Frenchmen were struck down or 
were seized by their assailants. Nine prostrate men upon 
the deck showed how fierce had been the attack, how des- 
perate the resistance. 

Badding leaned panting upon his blood-clotted hammer. 
" By Saint Leonard ! " he cried, " I thought that this little 
master had been the death of us all. God wot you were but 
just in time, and how you came I know not. This archer has 
had a hand in it, by the look of him." 

Aylward, still pale from his seasickness and dripping from 
head to foot with water, had been the first man in the rescue 
party. 

Nigel looked at him in amazement. " I sought you aboard 
the ship, Aylward, but I could not lay eyes on you," said he. 

" It was because I was in the water, fair sir, and by my 
hilt! it suits my stomach better than being on it," he an- 
swered. " When you first set forth I swam behind you, for 



Nigel Chased the Red Ferret 177 

I saw that the Frenchman's boat hung by a rope, and I 
thought that while you kept him in play I might gain it. I 
had reached it when you were driven back, so I hid behind 
it in the water and said my prayers as I have not said them 
for many a day. Then you came again, and no one had an 
eye for me, so I clambered into it, cut the rope, took the oars 
which I found there and brought her back for more men." 

" By Saint Paul ! you have acted very wisely and well," 
said Nigel, " and I think that of all of us it is you who have 
won most honor this day. But of all these men dead and 
alive I see none who resembles that Red Ferret whom my 
Lord Chandos has described and who has worked such de- 
spite upon us in the past. It would indeed be an evil chance 
if he has in spite of all our pains made his way to France' 
in some other boat." 

" That we shall soon find out," said Badding. " Come 
with me and we will search the ship from truck to keel ere 
he escapes us." 

There was a scuttle at the base of the mast which led down 
into the body of the vessel, and the Englishmen were ap- 
proaching this when a strange sight brought them to a stand. 
A round brazen head had appeared in the square dark open- 
ing. An instant afterward a pair of shining shoulders fol- 
lowed. Then slowly the whole figure of a man in complete 
plate-armor emerged on the deck. In his gauntleted hand he 
carried a heavy steel mace. With this uplifted he moved 
toward his enemies, silent save for the ponderous clank of 
his footfall. It was an inhuman, machine-like figure, men- 
acing and terrible, devoid of all expression, slow-moving, 
inexorable and awesome. 

A sudden wave of terror passed over the English seamen. 
One of them tried to pass and get behind the brazen man, but 
he was pinned against the side by a quick movement and his 
brains dashed out by a smashing blow from the heavy mace. 
Wild panic seized the others, and they rushed back to the 
boat. Aylward strung an arrow, but his bowstring was damp 
and the shaft rang loudly upon the shining breast-plate and 
glanced off into the sea. Masters struck the brazen head 
with a sword, but the blade snapped without injuring the 



178 Sir Nigel 

helmet, and an instant later the bowman was stretched 
senseless on the deck. The seamen shrank from this ter- 
rible silent creature and huddled in the stern, all the fight 
gone out of them. 

Again he raised his mace and was advancing on the help- 
less crowd where the brave were encumbered and hampered 
by the weaklings, when Nigel shook himself clear and 
bounded forward into the open, his sword in his hand and 
a smile of welcome upon his lips. 

The sun had set, and one long mauve gash across the 
western Channel was closing swiftly into the dull grays of 
early night. Above, a few stars began to faintly twinkle; 
yet the twilight was still bright enough for an observer to 
see every detail of the scene : the Marie Rose, dipping and 
rising on the long rollers astern; the broad French boat 
with its white deck blotched with blood and littered with 
bodies; the group of men in the stern, some trying to ad- 
vance and some seeking to escape all a confused, disor- 
derly, struggling rabble. 

Then betwixt them and the mast the two figures: the 
armed shining man of metal, with hand upraised, watchful, 
silent, motionless, and Nigel, bareheaded and crouching, 
with quick foot, eager eyes and fearless happy face, moving 
this way and that, in and out, his sword flashing like a gleam 
of light as he sought at all points for some opening in the 
brazen shell before him. 

It was clear to the man in armor that if he could but pen 
his antagonist in a corner he would beat him down without 
fail. But it was not to be done. The unhampered man 
had the advantage of speed. With a few quick steps he 
could always glide to either side and escape the clumsy rush. 
Aylward and Badding had sprung out to Nigel's assistance ; 
but he shouted to them to stand back, with such authority 
and anger in his voice that their weapons dropped to their 
sides. With staring eyes and set features they stood watch- 
ing that unequal fight. 

Once it seemed that all was. over with the Squire, 
for in springing back from his enemy he tripped over one 
of the bodies which strewed the deck and fell flat upon his 
back, but with a swift wriggle he escaped the heavy blow 



Nigel Chased the Red Ferret 179 

which thundered down upon him, and springing- to his feet 
he bit deeply into the Frenchman's helmet with a sweeping 
cut in return. Again the mace fell, and this time Nigel had 
not quite cleared himself. His sword was beaten down and 
the blow fell partly upon his left shoulder. He staggered, 
and once more the iron club whirled upward to dash him 
to the ground. 

Quick as a flash it passed through his mind that he could 
not leap beyond its reach. But he might get within it. In 
an instant he had dropped his sword, and springing in he 
had seized the brazen man round the waist. The mace 
was shortened and the handle jobbed down once upon the 
bare flaxen head. Then, with a sonorous clang, and a yell 
of delight from the spectators, Nigel with one mighty 
wrench tore his enemy from the deck and hurled him down 
upon his back. His own head was whirling and he felt that 
his senses were slipping away, but already his hunting-knife 
was out and pointing through the slit in the brazen helmet. 

" Give yourself up, fair sir ! " said he. 

" Never to fishermen and to archers ! I am a gentleman 
of coat-armor. Kill me ! " 

" I also am a gentleman of coat-armor. I promise you 
quarter." 

;< Then, sir, I surrender myself to you." 

The dagger tinkled down upon the deck. Seamen and 
archers ran forward, to find Nigel half senseless upon his 
face. They drew him off, and a few deft blows struck off 
the helmet of his enemy. A head, sharp-featured, freckled 
and foxy-red, disclosed itself beneath it. Nigel raised him- 
self on his elbow for an instant. 

" You are the Red Ferret? " said he. 

" So my enemies call me," said the Frenchman, with a 
smile. " I rejoice, sir, that I have fallen to so valiant and 
honorable a gentleman." 

" I thank you, fair sir," said Nigel feebly. " I also rejoice 
that I have encountered so debonair a person, and I shall 
ever bear in mind the pleasure which I have had from our 
meeting." 

So saying, he laid his bleeding head upon his enemy's 
brazen front and sank into a dead faint. 



XV 

HOW THE RED FERRET CAME TO COSFORD 

THE old chronicler in his " Gestes du Sieur Nigel " 
has bewailed his broken narrative, which rose 
from the fact that out of thirty-one years of war- 
fare no less than seven were spent by his hero at one time or 
another in the recovery from his wounds or from those ill- 
nesses which arose from privation and fatigue. Here at 
the very threshold of his career, on the eve of a great enter- 
prise, this very fate befell him. 

Stretched upon a couch in a low-roofed and ill-furnished 
chamber, which looks down from under the machicolated 
corner turret upon the inner court of the Castle of Calais,' he 
lay half-unconscious and impotent, while great deeds were 
doing under his window. Wounded in three places, and 
with his head splintered by the sharp pommel of the Ferret's 
mace, he hovered betwixt life and death, his shattered body 
drawing him downward, his youthful spirit plucking him up. 

As in some strange dream he was aware of that deed of 
arms within the courtyard below. Dimly it came back to his 
memory afterwards the sudden startled shout, the crash of 
metal, the slamming of great gates, the roar of many voices, 
the clang, clang, clang, as of fifty lusty smiths upon their 
anvils, and then at last the dwindling of the hubbub, the low 
groans and sudden shrill cries to the saints, the measured 
murmur of many voices, the heavy clanking of armored feet. 

Sometime in that fell struggle he must have drawn his 
weakened body as far as the narrow window, and hanging 
to the iron bars have looked down on the wild scene beneath 
him. In the red glare of torches held from windows and 
from roof he saw the rush and swirl of men below, the ruddy 
light shining back from glowing brass and gleaming steel. 
As a wild vision it came to him afterward, the beauty and 
the splendor, the flying lambrequins, the jeweled crests, the 



How the Red Ferret Came 181 

blazonry and richness of surcoat and of shield, where sable 
and gules, argent and vair, in every pattern of saltire, bend 
or chevron, glowed beneath him like a drift of many-colored 
blossoms, tossing, sinking, stooping into shadow, springing 
into light. There glared the blood-red gules of Chandos, 
and he saw the tall figure of his master, a thunderbolt of 
war, raging in the van. There too were the three black 
chevrons on the golden shield which marked the noble 
Manny. That strong swordsman must surely be the royal 
Edward himself, since only he and the black-armored swift- 
footed youth at his side were marked by no symbol of her- 
aldry. "Manny! Manny! George for England!" rose the 
deep-throated bay, and ever the gallant counter-cry : " A 
Chargny ! A Chargny ! Saint Denis for France ! " thun- 
dered amid the clash and thudding of the battle. 

Such was the vague whirling memory still lingering in 
Nigel's mind when at last the mists cleared away from it 
cfnd he found himself weak but clear on the low couch in 
the corner turret. Beside him, crushing lavender betwixt 
his rough fingers and strewing it over floor ,and sheets, 
was Aylward the archer. His longbow leaned at the foot 
of the bed, and his steel cap was balanced on the top of it, 
while he himself, sitting in his shirt-sleeves, fanned off the 
flies and scattered the fragrant herbs over his helpless 
master. 

" By my hilt ! " he cried with a sudden shout, every tooth 
in his head gleaming with joy, " I thank the Virgin and all 
the saints for this blessed sight ! I had not dared to go back 
to Tilford had I lost you. Three weeks have you lain there 
and babbled like a babe, but now I see in your eyes that you 
are your own man again." 

" I have indeed had some small hurt," said Nigel feebly ; 
" but it is shame and sorrow that I should lie here if there 
is work for my hands. Whither go you, archer ? " 

" To tell the good Sir John that you are mending." 

" Nay, bide with me a little longer, Aylward. I can call to 
mind all that has passed. There was a bickering of small 
boats, was there not, and I chanced upon a most worthy per- 
son and exchanged handstrokes with him ? He was my pris- 
oner, was he not ? " 



1 82 Sir Nigel 

" He was, fair sir." 

" And where is he now? " 
' " Below in the castle." 

A smile stole over Nigel's pale face. " I know what I 
will do with him," said he. 

" I pray you to rest, fair sir," said Aylward anxiously. 
" The King's own leech saw you this morning, and he said 
that if the bandage was torn from your head you would 
surely die." 

" Nay, good archer, I will not move. But tell me what 
befell upon the boat ? " 

" There is little to tell, fair sir. Had this Ferret not been 
his own squire and taken so long a time to don his harness 
it is likely that they would have had the better of us. He 
did not reach the battle till his comrades were on their backs. 
Him we took to the Marie Rose, because he was your man. 
The others were of no worth, so we threw them into the 
sea." 

' The quick and the dead? " 

" Every man of them." 

" It was an evil deed." 

Aylward shrugged his shoulders. " I tried to save one 
boy," said he ; " but Cock Badding would not have it, and 
he had Black Simon and the others at his back. * It is the 
custom of the Narrow Seas,' said they : ' To-day for them ; 
to-morrow for us.' Then they tore him from his hold and 
cast him screaming over the side. By my hilt! I have no 
love for the sea and its customs, so I care not if I never set 
foot on it again when it has once borne me back to England." 

" Nay, there are great happenings upon the sea, and many 
worthy people to be found upon ships," said Nigel. " In all 
parts, if one goes far enough upon the water, one would find 
those whom it would be joy to meet. If one crosses over the 
Narrow Sea, as we have done, we come on the French who 
are so needful to us; for how else would we win worship? 
Or if you go south, then in time one may hope to come to 
the land of the unbelievers, where there is fine skirmishing 
and much honor for him who will venture his person. Be- 
think you, archer, how fair a life it must be when one can 
ride forth in search of advancement with some hope of find- 



How the Red Ferret Came 183 

mg many debonair cavaliers upon the same quest, and then 
if one be overborne one has died for the faith, and the gates 
of Heaven are open before you. So also the sea to the north 
is a help to him who seeks honor, for it leads to the country 
of the Eastlanders and to those parts where the heathen 
still dwell who turn their faces from the blessed Gospel. 
There also a man might find some small deeds to do, and 
by Saint Paul ! Aylward, if the French hold the truce and 
the good Sir John permits us, I would fain go down into 
those parts. The sea is a good friend to the cavalier, for 
it takes him where he may fulfil his vows." 

Aylward shook his head, for his memories were too re- 
cent; but he said nothing, because at this instant the door 
opened and Chandos entered. With joy in his face he 
stepped forward to the couch and took Nigel's hand in his. 
Then he whispered a word in Aylward's ear, who hurried 
from the room. 

" Pardieu! this is a good sight," said the knight. "I 
trust that you will soon be on your feet again." 

" I crave your pardon, my honored lord, that I have been 
absent from your side," said Nigel. 

" In truth my heart was sore for you, Nigel ; for you have 
missed such a night as comes seldom in any man's life. All 
went even as we had planned. The postern gate was opened, 
and a party made their way in ; but we awaited them, and 
all were taken or slain. But the greater part of the French 
had remained without upon the plain of Nieullet, so we took 
horse and went out against them. When we drew near them 
they were surprised, but they made good cheer among them- 
selves, calling out to each other : * If we fly we lose all. It 
is better to fight on, in the hopes that the day may be ours.' 
This was heard by our people in the van, who cried out to 
them : ' By Saint George ! you speak truth. Evil befall him 
who thinks of flying ! ' So they held their ground like 
worthy people for the space of an hour, and there were 
many there whom it is always good to meet: Sir Geoffrey 
himself, and Sir Pepin de Werre, with Sir John de Landas, 
old Ballieul of the Yellow Tooth, and his brother Hector 
the Leopard. But above all Sir Eustace de Ribeaumont was 
at great pains to meet us worthily, and he was at handstrokes 



184 Sir Nigel 

with the King for a long time. Then, when we had slain 
or taken them, all the prisoners were brought to a feast 
which was ready for them, and the knights of England 
waited upon them at the table and made good cheer with 
them. And all this, Nigel, we owe to you." 

The Squire flushed with pleasure at the words. " Nay, 
most honored lord, it was but a small thing which I have 
been able to do. But I thank God and our Lady that I have 
done some service, since it has pleased you to take me with 
you to the wars. Should it chance " 

But the words were cut short upon Nigel's lips, and he lay 
back with amazed eyes staring from his pallid face. The 
door of his little chamber had opened, and who was this, the 
tall stately man with the noble presence, the high forehead, 
the "long handsome face, the dark, brooding eyes who but 
the noble Edward of England ? " 

" Ha, my little cock of Tilford Bridge, I still bear you in 
mind," said he. " Right glad I was to hear that you had 
found your wits again, and I trust that I have not helped 
to make you take leave of them once more." 

Nigel's stare of astonishment had brought a smile to the 
King's lips. Now the Squire stammered forth some halt- 
ing words of ,gratitude at the honor done to him. 

" Nay, not a word," said the King. " But in sooth it is 
a joy to my heart to see the son of my old comrade Eustace 
Loring carry himself so bravely. Had this boat got before 
us with news of our coming, then all our labor had been in 
vain, and no Frenchman ventured to Calais that night. But 
above all I thank you for that you have delivered into my 
hands one whom I had vowed to punish in that he has caused 
us more scathe by fouler means than any living man. Twice 
have I sworn that Peter the Red Ferret shall hang, for all 
his noble blood and coat-armor, if ever he should fall into 
my hands. Now at last his time has come ; but I would not 
put him to death until you, who had taken him, could be 
there to see it done. Nay, thank me not, for I could do no 
less, seeing that it is to you that I owe him." 

But it was not thanks which Nigel was trying to utter. 
It was hard to frame his words, and yet they must be said. 
" Sire," he murmured, " it ill becomes me to cross your royal 
will " 



How the Red Ferret Came 185 

The dark Plantagenet wrath gathered upon the King's 
high brow and gloomed in his fierce deep-set eyes. " By 
God's dignity ! no man has ever crossed it yet and lived un- 
scathed. How now, young sir, what mean such words, to 
which we are little wont? Have a care, for this is no light 
thing which you venture." 

" Sire," said Nigel, " in all matters in which I am a free 
man I am ever your faithful liege, but some things there are 
which may not be done." 

" How ? " cried the King. " In spite of my will ? " 

" In spite of your will, sire," said Nigel, sitting up on his 
couch, with white face and blazing eyes. 

" By the Virgin ! " the angry King thundered, " we are 
come to a pretty pass! You have been held too long at 
home, young man. The overstabled horse will kick. The 
unweathered hawk will fly at check. See to it, Master 
Chandos ! He is thine to break, and I hold you to it that 
you break him. And what is it that Edward of England 
may not do, Master Loring ? " 

Nigel faced the King with a face as grim as his own. 
" You may not put to death the Red Ferret." 

"Pardieu! And why?" 

" Because he is not thine to slay, sire. Because he is mine. 
Because I promised him his life, and it is not for you, King 
though you be, to constrain a man of gentle blood to break 
his plighted word and lose his honor." 

Chandos laid his soothing hand upon his Squire's shoul- 
der. " Excuse him, sire ; he is weak from his wounds," said 
he. " Perhaps we have stayed overlong, for the leech has 
ordered repose." 

But the angry King was not easily to be appeased. " I 
am not wont to be so browbeat," said he hotly. " This is 
your Squire, Master John. How comes it that you can stand 
there and listen to his pert talk, and say no word to chide 
him? Is this how you guide your household? Have you 
not taught him that every promise given is subject to the 
King's consent, and that with him only lie the springs of 
life and death? If he is sick, you at least are hale. Why 
stand you there in silence ? " 

" My liege," said Chandos gravely, " I have served you 
for over a score of years, and have shed my blood through 



1 86 Sir Nigel 

as many wounds in your cause, so that you should not take 
my words amiss. But indeed I should feel myself to be no 
true man if I did not tell you that my Squire Nigel, though 
perchance he has spoken more bluntly than becomes him, 
is none the less right in this matter, and that you are wrong. 
For bethink you, sire " 

" Enough ! " cried the King, more furious than ever. 
" Like master, like man, and I might have known why it is 
that this saucy Squire dares to bandy words with his sov- 
ereign lord. He does but give out what he hath taken in. 
John, John, you grow overbold. But this I tell you, and you 
also, young man, that as God is my help, ere the sun has 
set this night the Red Ferret will hang as a warning to all 
spies and traitors from the highest tower of Calais, that 
every ship upon the Narrow Seas, and every man for ten 
miles round may see him as he swings and know how heavy 
is the hand of the English King. Do you bear it in mind, 
lest you also may feel its weight ! " With a glare like an 
angry lion he walked from the room, and the iron-clamped 
door clanged loudly behind him. 

Chandos and Nigel looked ruefully at each other. Then 
the knight patted his Squire upon his bandaged head. 

" You have carried yourself right well, Nigel. I could 
not wish for better. Fear not. All will be well." 

" My fair and honored lord," cried Nigel, " I am heavy at 
heart, for indeed I could do no other, and yet I have brought 
trouble upon you." 

" Nay, the clouds will soon pass. If he does indeed slay 
this Frenchman, you have done all that lay within your 
power, and your mind may rest easy." 

" I pray that it will rest easy in Paradise," said Nigel ; 
" for at the hour that I hear that I am dishonored and my 
prisoner slain I tear this bandage from my head and so end 
all things. I will not live when once my word is broken." 

" Nay, fair son, you take this thing too heavily," said 
Chandos, with a grave face. " When a man has done all he 
may there remains no dishonor; but the King hath a kind 
heart for all his hot head, and it may be that if I see him 
I will prevail upon him. Bethink you how he swore to han^r 
the six burghers of this very town, and yet he pardoned 



How the Red Ferret Came 187 

them. So keep a high heart, fair son, and I will come with 
good news ere evening." 

For three hours, as the sinking sun traced the shadow 
higher and ever higher upon the chamber wall, Nigel tossed 
feverishly upon his couch, his ears straining for the footfall 
of Aylward or of Chandos, bringing news of the fate of the 
prisoner. At last the door flew open, and there before him 
stood the one man whom he least expected, and yet would 
most gladly have seen. It was the Red Ferret himself, free 
and joyous. 

With swift furtive steps he was acros the room and on 
his knees beside the couch, kissing the pendent hand. " You 
have saved me, most noble sir ! " he cried. " The gallows 
was fixed and the rope slung, when the good Lord Chandos 
told the King that you would die by your own hand if I were 
slain. ' Curse this mule-headed Squire ! ' he cried. ' In 
God's name let him have his prisoner, and let him do what 
he will with him so long as he troubles me no more ! ' So 
here I have come, fair sir, to ask you what I shall do." 

" I pray you to sit beside me and be at your ease," said 
Nigel. " In a few words I will tell you what I would have 
you do. Your armor I will keep, that I may have some re- 
membrance of my good fortune in meeting so valiant a gen- 
tleman. We are of a size, and I make little doubt that I 
can wear it. Of ransom I would ask a thousand crowns." 

" Nay, nay ! " cried the Ferret. " It would be a sad thing 
if a man of my position was worth less than five thousand." 

" A thousand will suffice, fair sir, to pay my charges for 
the war. You will not again play the spy, nor do us harm 
until the truce is broken." 

" That I will swear." 

" And lastly there is a journey that you shall make." 

The Frenchman's face lengthened. " Where you order I 
must go," said he ; " but I pray you that it is not to the Holy 
Land." 

" Nay," said Nigel ; " but it is to a land which is holy to 
me. You will make your way back to Southampton." 

" I know it well. I helped to burn it down some years 
ago." 

" I rede you to say nothing of that matter when you get 



1 88 Sir Nigel 



there. You will then journey as though to London until 
you come to a fair town named Guildford." 

" I have heard of it. The King hath a hunt there." 

" The same. You will then ask for a house named Cos- 
ford, two leagues from the town on the side of a long hill." 

" I will bear it in mind." 

" At Cosford you will see a good knight named Sir John 
Buttesthorn, and you will ask to have speech with his daugh- 
ter, the Lady Mary." 

" I will do so ; and what shall I say to the Lady Mary, 
who lives at Cosford on the slope of a long hill two leagues 
from the fair town of Guildford ? " 

" Say only that I sent my greeting, and that Saint Cath- 
arine has been my friend only that and nothing more. And 
now leave me, I pray you, for my head is weary and I would 
fain have sleep." 

Thus it came about that a month later on the eve of the 
Feast of Saint Matthew, the Lady Mary, as she walked from 
Cosford gates, met with a strange horseman, richly clad, a 
serving-man behind him, looking shrewdly about him with 
quick blue eyes, which twinkled from a red and freckled face. 
At sight of her he doffed his hat and reined his horse. 

" This house should be Cosford," said he. " Are you by 
chance the Lady Mary who dwells there ? " 

The lady bowed her proud dark head. 

" Then," said he, " Squire Nigel Loring sends you greet- 
ing and tells you that Saint Catharine has been his friend." 
Then turning to his servant he cried : " Heh, Raoul, our task 
is done ! Your master is a free man once more. Come, lad, 
come, the nearest port to France ! Hola ! Hola ! Hola ! " 
And so without a word more the two, master and man, set 
spurs to their horses and galloped like madmen down the 
long slope of Hindhead, until as she looked after them they 
were but two dark dots in the distance, waist-high in the 
ling and the bracken. 

She turned back to the house, a smile upon her face. 
Nigel had sent her greeting. A Frenchman had brought it. 
His bringing it had made him a free man. And Saint Cath- 
arine had been Nigel's friend. It was at her shrine that he 
had sworn that three deeds should be done ere he should set 



How the Red Ferret Came 189 

eyes upon her again. In the privacy of her room the Lady 
Mary sank upon her prie-dieu and poured forth the thanks 
of her heart to the Virgin that one deed was accomplished ; 
but even as she did so her joy was overcast by the thought 
of those two others which lay before him. 



XVI 

HOW THE KING'S COURT FEASTED IN CALAIS 
CASTLE 

IT was a bright sunshiny morning when Nigel found 
himself at last able to leave his turret chamber and 
to walk upon the rampart of the castle. There was 
a brisk northern wind, heavy and wet with the salt of the sea, 
and he felt, as he turned his face to it, fresh life and strength 
surging in his blood and bracing his limbs. He took his 
hand from Aylward's supporting arm and stood with his cap 
off, leaning on the rampart and breathing in the cool strong 
air. Far off upon the distant sky-line, half hidden by the 
heave of the waves, was the low white fringe of cliffs which 
skirted England. Between him and them lay the broad blue 
Channel, seamed and flecked with flashing foam, for a sharp 
sea was running and the few ships in sight were laboring 
heavily. Nigel's eyes traversed the wide-spread view, re- 
joicing in the change from the gray wall of his cramped 
chamber. Finally they settled upon a strange object at his 
very feet. 

It was a long trumpet-shaped engine of leather and iron 
bolted into a rude wooden stand and fitted with wheels. Be- 
side it lay a heap of metal slugs and lumps of stone. The 
end of the machine was raised and pointed over the battle- 
ment. Behind it stood an iron box which Nigel opened. 
It was filled with a black coarse powder, like gritty charcoal. 

" By Saint Paul ! " said he, passing his hands over the 
engine, " I have heard men talk of these things, but never 
before have I seen one. It is none other than one of those 
wondrous new-made bombards." 

" In sooth, it is even as you say," Aylward answered, look- 
ing at it with contempt and dislike in his face. " I have seen 
them here upon the ramparts, and have also exchanged a 
buffet or two with him who had charge of them. He was 

190 



How the King's Court Feasted 191 

jack-fool enough to think that with this leather pipe he 
could outshoot the best archer in Christendom. I lent him 
a cuff on the ear that laid him across his foolish engine." 

" It is a fearsome thing," said Nigel, who had stooped 
to examine it. " We live in strange times when such things 
can be made. It is loosed by fire, is it not, which springs 
from the black dust? " 

" By my hilt ! fair sir, I know not. And yet I call to mind 
that ere we fell out this foolish bombardman did say some- 
thing of the matter. The fire-dust is within and so also is 
the ball. Then you take more dust from this iron box and 
place it in the hole at the farther end so. It is now ready. 
I have never seen one fired, but I wot that this one could 
be fired now." 

" It makes a strange sound, archer, does it not ? " said 
Nigel wistfully. 

" So I have heard, fair sir even as the bow twangs, so it 
also has a sound when you loose it." 

" There is no one to hear, since we are alone upon the 
rampart, nor can it do scathe, since it points to sea. I 
pray you to loose it and I will listen to the sound." He bent 
over the bombard with an attentiye ear, while Aylward, 
stooping his earnest brown face over the touch-hole, scraped 
away diligently with a flint and steel. A moment later both 
he and Nigel were seated some distance off upon the ground 
while amid the roar of the discharge and the thick cloud of 
smoke they had a vision of the long black snake-like engine 
shooting back upon the recoil. For a minute or more they 
were struck motionless with astonishment while the rever- 
berations died away and the smoke wreaths curled slowly up 
to the blue heavens. 

" Good lack ! " cried Nigel at last, picking himself up and 
looking round him. " Good lack, and Heaven be my aid ! 
I thank the Virgin that all stands as it did before. I thought 
that the castle had fallen." 

" Such a bull's bellow I have never heard," cried Aylward, 
rubbing his injured limbs. " One could hear it from Fren- 
sham Pond to Guild ford Castle. I would not touch one 
again not for a hide of the best land in Puttenham ! " 

" It may fare ill with yorur own hide, archer, if you do," 



192 Sir Nigel 

said an angry voice behind them. Chandos had stepped 
from the open door of the corner turret and stood looking 
at them with a harsh gaze. Presently, as the matter was 
made clear to him, his face relaxed into a smile. 

" Hasten to the warden, archer, and tell him how it befell. 
You will have the castle and the town in arms. I know not 
what the King may think of so sudden an alarm. And you, 
Nigel, how in the name of the saints came you to play the 
child like this?" 

" I knew not its power, fair lord." 

" By my soul, Nigel, I think that none of us know its 
power. I can see the day when all that we delight in, the 
splendor and glory of war, may all go down before that 
which beats through the plate of steel as easily as the leath- 
ern jacket. I have bestrode my war-horse in my armor and 
have looked down at the sooty, smoky bombardman beside 
me, and I have thought that perhaps I was the last of the 
old and he the first of the new ; that there would come a time 
when he and his engines would sweep you and me and the 
rest of us from the field." 

" But not yet, I trust, honored sir ? " 

" No, not yet, Nigel. You are still in time to win your 
spurs even as your fathers did. How is your strength ? " 

" I am ready for any task, my good and honored lord." 

" It is well, for work awaits us good work, pressing 
work, work of peril and of honor. Your eyes shine and your 
face flushes, Nigel. I live my own youth over again as I 
look at you. Know then that though there is truce with the 
French here, there is not truce in Brittany where the houses 
of Blois and of Montfort still struggle for the dukedom. 
Half Brittany fights for one, and half for the other. The 
French have taken up the cause of Blois, and we of Mont- 
fort, and it is such a war that many a great leader, such as 
Sir Walter Manny, has first earned his name there. Of late 
the war has gone against us, and the bloody hands of the 
Rohans, of Gap-tooth Beaumanoir, of Oliver the Flesher and 
others have been heavy upon our people. The last tidings 
have been of disaster, and the King's soul is dark with 
wrath for that his friend and comrade Gilles de St. Pol has 
been done to death in the Castle of La Brohiniere. He will 



How the King's Court Feasted 193 

send succors to the country, and we go at their head. How 
like you that, Nigel?" 

" My honored lord, what could I ask for better ? " 

" Then have your harness ready, for we start within the 
week. Our path by land is blocked by the French, and we 
go by sea. This night the King gives a banquet ere he re- 
turns to England, and your place is behind my chair. Be in 
my chamber that you may help me to dress, and so we will 
to the hall together." 

With satin and with samite, with velvet and with fur, the 
noble Chandos was dressed for the King's feast, and Nigel 
too had donned his best silk jupon, faced with the five scar- 
let roses, that he might wait upon him. In the great hall 
of Calais Castle the tables were set, a high table for the 
lords, a second one for the less distinguished knights, and a 
third at which the squires might feast when their masters 
were seated. 

Never had Nigel in his simple life at Tilford pictured a 
scene of such pomp and wondrous luxury. The grim gray 
walls were covered from ceiling to floor with priceless tapes- 
try of Arras, where hart, hounds and huntsmen circled the 
great hall with one long living image of the chase. Over 
the principal table drooped a line of banners, and beneath 
them rows of emblazoned shields upon the wall carried the 
arms of the high noblemen who sat beneath. The red light 
of cressets and of torches burned upon the badges of the 
great captains of England. The lions and lilies shone over 
the high dorseret chair in the center, and the same august 
device marked with the cadency label indicated the seat of 
the Prince, while glowing to right and to left were the long 
lines of noble insignia, honored in peace and terrible in war. 
There shone the gold and sable of Manny, the engrailed 
cross of Suffolk, the red chevron of Stafford, the scarlet 
and gold of Audley, the blue lion rampant of the Percies, 
the silver swallows of Arundel, the red roebuck of the 
Montacutes, the star of the de Veres, the silver scallops of 
Russell, the purple lion of de Lacy, and the black crosses of 
Clinton. 

A friendly Squire at Nigel's elbow whispered the names 
of the famous warriors beneath. " You are young Loring 



194 Sir Nigel 

of Tilford, the Squire of Chandos, are you not ? " said he. 
" My name is Delves, and I come from Doddington 
in Cheshire. I am the Squire of Sir James Audley, yon- 
der round-backed man with the dark face and close- 
cropped beard, who hath the Saracen head as a crest above 
him." 

" I have heard of him as a man of great valor/' said Nigel, 
gazing at him with interest. 

" Indeed, you may well say so, Master Loring. He is the 
bravest knight in England, and in Christendom also, as I 
believe. No man hath done such deeds of valor." 

Nigel looked at his new acquaintance with hope in his 
eyes. " You speak as it becomes you to speak when you up- 
hold your own master," said he. " For the same reason, 
Master Delves, and in no spirit of ill-will to you, it behooves 
me to tell 'you that he is not to be compared in name or fame 
with the noble knight on whom I wait. Should you hold 
otherwise, then surely we can debate the matter in whatever 
way or time may please you best." 

Delves smiled good-humoredly. " Nay, be not so hot," 
said he. " Had you upheld any other knight, save perhaps 
Sir Walter Manny, I had taken you at your word, and your 
master or mine would have had place for a new Squire. 
But indeed it is only truth that no knight is second to Chan- 
dos, nor would I draw my sword to lower his pride of place. 
Ha, Sir James' cup is low ! I must see to it ! " He darted 
off, a flagon of Gascony in his hand. " The King hath had 
good news to-night," he continued when he returned. " I 
have not seen him in so merry a mind since the night when 
we took the Frenchmen and he laid his pearl chaplet upon 
the head of de Ribeaumont. See how he laughs, and the 
Prince also. That laugh bodes some one little good, or I 
am the more mistaken. Have a care! Sir John's plate is 
empty." 

It was Nigel's turn to dart away ; but ever in the intervals 
he returned to the corner whence he could look down the 
hall and listen to the words of the older Squire. Delves was 
a short, thick-set man past middle age, weather-beaten and 
scarred, with a rough manner and bearing which showed 
that he was more at his ease in a tent than a hall. But tea 



How the King's Court Feasted 195 

years of service had taught him much, and Nigel listened 
eagerly to his talk. 

" Indeed the King hath some good tidings," he continued. 
" See now, he has whispered it to Chandos and to Manny. 
Manny spreads it on to Sir Reginald Cobham, and he to 
Robert Knolles, each smiling like the Devil over a friar." 

" Which is Sir Robert Knolles ? " asked Nigel with in- 
terest. " I have heard much of him and his deeds." 

" He is the tall hard-faced man in yellow silk, he with 
the hairless cheeks and the split lip. He is little older than 
yourself, and his father was a cobbler in Chester, yet he has 
already won the golden spurs. See how he dabs his great 
hand in the dish and hands forth the gobbets. He is more 
used to a camp-kettle than a silver plate. The big man with 
the black beard is Sir Bartholomew Berghersh, whose 
brother is the Abbot of Beaulieu. Haste, haste ! for the 
boar's head is come and the plate's to be cleaned." 

The table manners of our ancestors at this period would 
have furnished to the modern eye the strangest mixture of 
luxury and of barbarism. Forks were still unknown, and 
the courtesy fingers, the index and the middle of the left 
hand, took their place. To use any others was accounted 
the worst of manners. A crowd of dogs lay among the 
rushes growling at each other and quarreling over the 
gnawed bones which were thrown to them by the feasters. 
A slice of coarse bread served usually as a plate, but the 
King's own high table was provided with silver platters, 
which were wiped by the Squire or page after each course. 
On the other hand the table-linen was costly, and the courses, 
served with a pomp and dignity now unknown, comprised 
such a variety of dishes and such complex marvels of cook- 
ery as no modern banquet could show. Besides all our do- 
mestic animals and every kind of game, such strange deli- 
cacies as hedgehogs, bustards, porpoises, squirrels, bitterns 
and cranes lent variety to the feast. 

Each new course, heralded by a flourish of silver trum- 
pets, was borne in by liveried servants walking two and two, 
with rubicund marshals strutting in front and behind, bear- 
ing white wands in their hands, not only as badges of their 
office, but also as weapons with which to repel any imper- 



196 Sir Nigel 

tinent inroad upon the dishes in the journey from the kitchen 
to the hall. Boar's heads, enarmed and endored with gilt 
tusks and flaming mouths, were followed by wondrous pas- 
ties molded to the shape of ships, castles and other devices 
with sugar seamen or soldiers who lost their own bodies in 
their fruitless defense against the hungry attack. Finally 
came the great nef, a silver vessel upon wheels laden with 
fruit and sweetmeats which rolled with its luscious cargo 
down the line of guests. Flagons of Gascony, of Rhine wine, 
of Canary and of Rochelle were held in readiness by the 
attendants ; but the age, though luxurious, was not drunken, 
and the sober habits of the Norman had happily prevailed 
over the license of those Saxon banquets where no guest 
might walk from the table without a slur upon his host. 
Honor and hardihood go ill with a shaking hand or a blurred 
eye. 

Whilst wine, fruit and spices were handed round the high 
tables the squires had been served in turn at the farther end 
of the hall. Meanwhile round the King there had gathered 
a group of statesmen and soldiers, talking eagerly among 
themselves. The Earl of Stafford, the Earl of Warwick, 
the Earl of Arundel, Lord Beauchamp and Lord Neville 
were assembled at the back of his chair, with Lord Percy and 
Lord Mowbray at either side. The little group blazed with 
golden chains and jeweled chaplets, flame-colored paltocks 
and purple tunics. 

Of a sudden the King said something over his shoulder 
to Sir William de Pakyngton the herald, who advanced and 
stood by the royal chair. He was a tall and noble-featured 
man, with long grizzled beard which rippled down to the 
gold-linked belt girdling his many-colored tabard. On his 
head he had placed the heraldic barret-cap which bespoke his 
dignity, and he slowly raised his white wand high in the air, 
while a great hush fell upon the hall. 

" My lords of England," said he, " knight bannerets, 
knights, squires, and all others here present of gentle birth 
and coat-armor, know that your dread and sovereign lord, 
Edward, King of England and of France, bids me give you 
greeting and commands you to come hither that he may 
have speech with you." 



How the King's Court Feasted 197 

In an instant the tables were deserted and the whole com- 
pany had clustered in front of the King's chair. Those who 
had sat on either side of him crowded inward so that his 
tall dark figure upreared itself amid the dense circle of his 
guests. 

With a flush upon his olive cheeks and with pride smol- 
dering in his dark eyes, he looked round him at the eager 
faces of the men who had been his comrades from Sluys and 
Cadsand to Crecy and Calais. They caught fire from that 
warlike gleam in his masterful gaze, and a sudden wild, 
fierce shout pealed up to the vaulted ceiling, a soldierly 
thanks for what was passed and a promise for what was to 
come;. The King's teeth gleamed in a quick smile, and his 
large white hand played with the jeweled dagger in his 
belt. 

" By the splendor of God ! " said he in a loud clear voice, 
" I have little doubt that you will rejoice with me this night, 
for such tidings have come to my ears as may well bring 
joy to everyone of you. You know well that our ships have 
suffered great scathe from the Spaniards, who for many 
years have slain without grace or ruth all of my people who 
have fallen into their cruel hands. Of late they have sent 
their ships into Flanders, and thirty great cogs and galleys 
lie now at Sluys well-filled with archers and men-at-arms 
and ready in all ways for battle. I have it to-day from a sure 
hand that, having taken their merchandise aboard, these 
ships will sail upon the next Sunday and will make their 
way through our Narrow Sea. We have for a great time 
been long-suffering to these people, for which they have 
done us many contraries and despites, growing ever more 
arrogant as w^ grow more patient. It is in my mind there- 
fore that we hie us to-morrow to Winchelsea, where we have 
twenty ships, and make ready to sally out upon them as they 
pass. May God and Saint George defend the right ! " 

A second shout, far louder and fiercer than the first, came 
like a thunderclap after the King's words. It was the bay 
of a fierce pack to their trusted huntsman. 

Edward laughed again as he looked round at the gleaming 
eyes, the waving arms and the flushed joyful faces of, his 
liegemen, " Who hath fought against these Spaniards ? " 



198 Sir Nigel 

he asked. " Is there anyone here who can tell us what man- 
ner of men they be ? " 

A dozen hands went up into the air ; but the King turned 
to the Earl of Suffolk at his elbow. 

" You have fought them, Thomas ? " said he. 

" Yes, sire, I was in the great .sea-fight eight years ago 
at the Island of Guernsey, when Lord Lewis of Spain held 
the sea against the Earl of Pembroke." 

" How found you them, Thomas? " 

" Very excellent people, sire, and no man could ask for 
better. On every ship they have a hundred crossbowmen 
of Genoa, the best in the world, and their spearmen also are 
very hardy men. They would throw great cantles of iron 
from the tops of the masts, and many of our people met their 
death through it. If we can bar their way in the Narrow 
Sea, then there will be much hope of honor for all of us." 

" Your words are very welcome, Thomas," said the King, 
" and I make no doubt that they will show themselves to be 
very worthy of what we prepare for them. To you I give 
a ship, that you may have the handling of it. You also, 
my dear son, shall have a ship, that evermore honor may be 
thine." 

" I thank you, my fair and sweet father," said the Prince, 
with joy flushing his handsome boyish face. 

" The leading ship shall be mine. But you shall have one, 
Walter Manny, and you, Stafford, and you, Arundel, and 
you, Audley, and you, Sir Thomas Holland, and you, Bro- 
cas, and you, Berkeley, and you, Reginald. The rest shall 
be awarded at Winchelsea, whither we sail to-morrow. Nay, 
John, why do you pluck so at my sleeve ? " 

Chandos was leaning forward, with an anxious face. 
" Surely, my honored lo v rd, I have not served you so long 
and so faithfully that you should forget me now. Is there 
then no ship for me ? " 

The King smiled, but shook his head. " Nay, John, have 
I not given you two hundred archers and a hundred men- 
at-arms to take with you into Brittany? I trust that your 
ships will be lying in Saint-Malo Bay ere the Spaniards are 



How the King's Court Feasted 199 

abreast of Winchelsea. What more would you have, old 
war-dog? Wouldst be in two battles at once? " 

" I would be at your side, my liege, when the lion banner 
is in the wind once more. I have ever been there. Why 
should you cast me now? I ask little, dear lord a galley, 
a balinger, even a pinnace, so that I may only be there." 

" Nay, John, you shall come. I cannot find it in my heart 
to say you nay. I will find you place in my own ship, that 
you may indeed be by my side." 

Chandos stooped and kissed the King's hand. " My 
Squire ? " he asked. 

The King's brows knotted into a frown. " Nay, let him 
go to Brittany with the others," said he harshly. " I won- 
der, John, that you should bring back to my memory this 
youth whose pertness is too fresh that I should forget it. 
But some one must go to Brittany in your stead, for the 
matter presses and our people are hard put to it to hold 
their own." He cast his eyes over the assembly, and they 
rested upon the stern features of Sir Robert Knolles. 

" Sir Robert," he said, " though you are young in years 
you are already old in war, and I have heard that you are 
as prudent in council as you are valiant in the field. To 
you I commit the charge of this venture to Brittany in place 
of Sir John Chandos, who will follow thither when our work 
has been done upon the waters. Three ships lie in Calais 
port and three hundred men are ready to your hand. Sir 
John will tell you what our mind is in the matter. And 
now, my friends and good comrades, you will haste you each 
to his own quarters, and you will make swiftly such prep- 
arations as are needful, for, as God is my aid, I will sail 
with you to Winchelsea ,to-morrow ! " 

Beckoning to Chandos, Manny and a few of his chosen 
leaders, the King led them away to an inner chamber, where 
they might discuss the plans for the future. At the same 
time the assembly broke up, the knights in silence and dig- 
nity, the squires in mirth and noise, but all joyful at heart 
for the thought of the great days which lay before them. 



XVII 

THE SPANIARDS ON THE SEA 

DAY had not yet dawned when Nigel was in the 
chamber of Chandos preparing him for his de- 
parture and listening to the last cheery words of 
advice and direction from his noble master. That same 
morning, before the sun was half-way up the heaven, the 
King's great nef Philippa, bearing within it the most of 
those present at his banquet the night before, set its huge 
sail, adorned with the lions and the lilies, and turned its 
brazen beak for England. Behind it went five smaller cogs 
crammed with squires, archers and men-at-arms. 

Nigel and his companions lined the ramparts of the castle 
and waved their caps as the bluff, burly vessels, with drums 
beating and trumpets clanging, a hundred knightly pennons 
streaming from their decks and the red cross of England 
over all, rolled slowly out to the open sea. Then when they 
had watched them until they were hull down they turned, 
with hearts heavy at being left behind, to make ready for 
their own more distant venture. 

It took them four days of hard work ere their prepara- 
tions were complete, for many were the needs of a small 
force sailing to a strange country. Three ships had been left 
to them, the cog Thomas of Romney, the Grace Dieu of 
Hythe, and the Basilisk of Southampton, into each of which 
one hundred men were stowed, besides the thirty seamen who 
formed the crew. In the hold were forty horses, amongst 
them Pommers, much wearied by his long idleness, and 
homesick for the slopes of Surrey where his great limbs 
might find the work he craved. Then the food and the 
water, the bow-staves and the sheaves of arrows, the horse- 
shoes, the nails, the hammers, the knives, the axes, the ropes, 
the vats of hay, the green fodder and a score of other things 
were packed aboard. Always by the side of the ships stood 

200 



The Spaniards on the Sea 201 

the stern young knight Sir Robert, checking, testing, watch- 
ing and controlling, saying little, for he was a man of few 
words, but with his eyes, his hands, and if need be his heavy 
dog-whip, wherever they were wanted. 

The seamen of the Basilisk, being from a free port, had 
the old feud against the men of the Cinque Ports, who were 
looked upon by the other mariners of England as being un- 
duly favored by the King. A ship of the West Country 
could scarce meet with one from the Narrow Seas without 
blood flowing. Hence sprang sudden broils on the quay 
side, when with yell and blow the Thomases and Grace 
Dieus, Saint Leonard on their lips and murder in their 
hearts, would fall upon the Basilisks. Then amid the whirl 
of cudgels and the clash of knives would spring the tiger 
figure of the young leader, lashing mercilessly to right and 
left like a tamer among his wolves, until he had beaten them 
howling back to their work. Upon the morning of the 
fourth day all was ready, and the ropes being cast off the 
three little ships were warped down the harbor by their own 
pinnaces until they were swallowed up in the swirling folds 
of a Channel mist. 

Though small in numbers, it was no mean force which 
Edward had dispatched to succor the hard-pressed English 
garrisons in Brittany. There was scarce a man among them 
who was not an old soldier, and their leaders were men of 
note in council and in war. Knolles flew his flag of the 
black raven aboard the Basilisk. With him were Nigel and 
his own Squire John Hawthorn. Of his hundred men, forty 
were [Yorkshire Dalesmen and forty were men of Lincoln, 
all noted archers, with old Wat of Carlisle, a grizzled veteran 
of border warfare, to lead them. 

Already Aylward by his skill and strength had won his 
way to an under-ofrkership amongst them, and shared with 
Long Ned Widdington, a huge North Countryman, the 
reputation of coming next to famous Wat Carlisle in all 
that makes an archer. The men-at-arms too were war- 
hardened soldiers, with Black Simon of Norwich, the same 
who had sailed from Winchelsea, to lead them. With his 
heart filled with hatred for the French who had slain all 



202 Sir Nigel 

who were dear to him, he followed like a bloodhound over 
land and sea to any spot where he might glut his vengeance. 
Such also were the men who sailed in the other ships, 
Cheshire men from the Welsh borders in the cog Thomas, 
and Cumberland men, used to Scottish warfare, in the Grace 
Dieu. 

Sir James Astley hung his shield of cinquefoil ermine over 
the quarter of the Thomas. Lord Thomas Percy, a cadet of 
Alnwick, famous already for the high spirit of that house 
which for ages was the bar upon the landward gate of Eng- 
land, showed his blue lion rampant as leader of the Grace 
Dieu. Such was the goodly company Saint-Malo bound, 
who warped from Calais Harbor to plunge into the thick 
reek of a Channel mist. 

A slight breeze blew from the eastward, and the high- 
ended, round-bodied craft rolled slowly down the Channel. 
The mist rose a little at times, so that they had sight of 
each other dipping and rising upon a sleek, oily sea, but 
again it would sink down, settling over the top, shrouding 
the great yard, and finally frothing over the deck until 
even the water alongside had vanished from their view and 
they were afloat on a little raft in an ocean of vapor. A thin 
cold rain was falling, and the archers were crowded under 
the shelter of the overhanging poop and forecastle, where 
some spent the hours at dice, some in sleep, and many in 
trimming their arrows or polishing their weapons. 

At the farther end, seated on a barrel as a throne of honor, 
with trays and boxes of feathers around him, was Bartholo- 
mew the bowyer and Fletcher, a fat, bald-headed man, whose 
task it was to see that every man's tackle was as it should 
be, and who had the privilege of selling such extras as they 
might need. A group of archers with their staves and quiv- 
ers filed before him with complaints or requests, while half 
a dozen of the seniors gathered at his back and listened with 
grinning faces to his comments and rebukes. 

" Canst not string it ? " he was saying to a young bowman. 
" Then surely the string is overshort or the stave overlong. 
It could not by chance be the fault of thy own baby arms 



The Spaniards on the Sea 203 

more fit to draw on thy hosen than to dress a warbow. 
Thou lazy lurdan, thus is it strung ! " He seized the stave 
by the center in his right hand, leaned the end on the inside 
of his right foot, and then, pulling the upper nock down with 
the left hand, slid the eye of the string easily into place. 
" Now I pray thee to unstring it again/' handing it to the 
bowman. 

The youth with an effort did so, but he was too slow in 
disengaging his fingers, and the string sliding down with 
a snap from the upper nock caught and pinched them sorely 
against the stave. A roar of laughter, like the clap of a 
wave, swept down the deck as the luckless bowman danced 
and wrung his hand. 

" Serve thee well right, thou redeless fool ! " growled the 
old bowyer. " So fine a bow is wasted in such hands. How 
now, Samkin? I can teach you little of your trade, I trow. 
Here is a bow dressed as it should be ; but it would, as you 
say, be the better for a white band to mark the true nocking 
point in the center of this red wrapping of silk. Leave it 
and I will tend to it anon. And you, Wat? A fresh head 
on yonder stele ? Lord, that a man should carry four trades 
under one hat, and be bowyer, fletcher, stringer and head- 
maker! Four men's work for old Bartholomew and one 
man's pay ! " 

" Nay, say no more about that," growled an old wizened 
bowman, with a brown-parchment skin and little beady eyes. 
" It is better in these days to mend a bow than to bend one. 
You who never looked a Frenchman in the face are pricked 
off for ninepence a day, and I, who have fought five stricken 
fields, can earn but fourpence." 

" It is in my mind, John of Tuxford, that you have looked 
in the face more pots of mead than Frenchmen," said 
the old bowyer. " I am swinking from dawn to night, while 
you are guzzling in an ale-stake. How now, youngster? 
Overbowed ? Put your bow in the tiller. It draws at sixty 
pounds not a pennyweight too much for a man of your 
inches. Lay more body to it, lad, and it will come to you. 
If your bow be not stiff, how can you hope for a twenty- 
score flight. Feathers ? Aye, plenty and of the best. Here, 
peacock at a groat each. Surely a dandy archer like you, 



204 Sir Nigel 

Tom Beverley, with gold earrings in your ears, would have 
no feathering but peacocks ? " 

" So the shaft fly straight, I care not of the feather," 
said the bowman, a tall young Yorkshireman, counting out 
pennies on the palm of his horny hand. 

" Gray goose-feathers are but a farthing. These on the 
left are a halfpenny, for they are of the wild goose, and the 
second feather of a fenny goose is worth more than the pin- 
ion of a tame one. These in the brass tray are dropped 
feathers, and a dropped feather is better than a plucked one. 
Buy a score of these, lad, and cut them saddle-backed or 
swine-backed, the one for a dead shaft and the other for a 
smooth flyer, and no man in the company will swing a better- 
fletched quiver over his shoulder." 

It chanced that the opinion of the bowyer on this and 
other points differed froni that of Long Ned of Widdington, 
a surly straw-bearded Yorkshireman, who had listened with 
a sneering face to his counsel. Now he broke in suddenly 
upon the bowyer's talk. " You would do better to sell bows 
than to try to teach others how to use them," said he ; " for 
indeed, Bartholomew, that head of thine has no more sense 
within it than it has hairs without. If you had drawn string 
for as many months as I have years you would know that 
a straight-cut feather flies smoother than a swine-backed, 
and pity it is that these young bowmen have none to teach 
them better ! " 

This attack upon his professional knowledge touched the 
old bowyer on the raw. His fat face became suffused with 
blood and his eyes glared with fury as he turned upon the 
archer. " You seven- foot barrel of lies ! " he cried. " All- 
hallows be my aid, and I will teach you to open your slab- 
bing mouth against me ! Pluck forth your sword and stand 
out on yonder deck, that we may see who is the man of 
us twain. May I never twirl a shaft over my thumb nail 
if I do not put Bartholomew's mark upon your thick head ! " 

A score of rough voices joined at once in 'the quarrel, 
some upholding the bowyer and others taking the part of 
the North Countryman. A red-headed Dalesman snatched 
up a sword, but was felled by a blow from the fist of his 
neighbor. Instantly, with a buzz like a swarm of angry 



The Spaniards on the Sea 205 

hornets, the bowmen were out on the deck ; but ere a blow 
was struck Knolles was amongst them with granite face and 
eyes of fire. 

" Stand apart, I say ! I will warrant you enough fighting 
to cool your blood ere you see England once more. Loring, 
Hawthorn, cut any man down who raises his hand. Have 
you aught to say, you fox-haired rascal ? " He thrust his 
face within two inches of that of the red man who had first 
seized his sword. The fellow shrank back, cowed, from his 
fierce eyes. " Now stint your noise, all of you, and stretch 
your long ears. Trumpeter, blow once more ! " 

A bugle call had been sounded every quarter of an hour 
so as to keep in touch with the other two vessels who were 
invisible in the fog. Now the high clear note rang out once 
more, the call of a fierce sea-creature to its mates, but no 
answer came back from the thick wall which pent them in. 
Again and again they called, and again and again with bated 
breath they waited for an answer. 

" Where is the shipman? " asked Knolles. " What is your 
name, fellow ? Do you dare call yourself master-mariner ? " 

" My name is Nat Dennis, fair sir," said the gray-bearded 
old seaman. " It is thirty years since first I showed my car- 
tel and blew trumpet for a crew at the water-gate of South- 
ampton. If any man may call himself master-mariner, it 
is surely I." 

" Where are our two ships ? " 

" Nay, sir, who can say in this fog? " 

4< Fellow, it was your place to hold them together." 

" I have but the eyes God gave me, fair sir, and they can- 
not see through a cloud." 

" Had it been fair, I, who am a soldier, could have kept 
them in company. Since it was foul, we looked to you, 
who are called a mariner, to do so. You have not done 
it. You have lost two of my ships ere the venture is begun." 

" Nay, fair sir, I pray you to consider " 

" Enough words ! " said Knolles sternly. " Words will 
not give me back my two hundred men. Unless I find them 
before I come to Saint-Malo, I swear by Saint Wilfrid of 
Ripon that it will be an evil day for you! Enough! Go 
forth and do what you may ! " 



206 Sir Nigel 

For five hours with a light breeze behind them they 
lurched through the heavy fog, the cold rain still matting 
their beards and shining on their faces. Sometimes they 
could se^e a circle of tossing water for a bowshot or so in 
each direction, and then the wreaths would crawl in upon 
them once more and bank them thickly round. They had 
long ceased to blow the trumpet for their missing comrades, 
but had hopes when clear weather came to find them still 
in sight. By the shipman's reckoning they were now about 
midway between the two shores. 

Nigel was leaning against the bulwarks, his thoughts away 
in the dingle at Cosford and out on the heather-clad slopes 
of Hindhead, when something struck his ear. It was a thin 
clear clang of metal, pealing out high above the dull mur- 
mur of the sea, the creak of the boom and the flap of the sail. 
He listened, and again it was borne to his ear. 

" Hark, my lord ! " said he to Sir Robert. " Is there not 
a sound in the fog ? " 

They both listened together with sidelong heads. Then 
it rang clearly forth once more, but this time in another di- 
rection. It had been on the bow ; now it was on the quarter. 
Again it sounded, and again. Now it had moved to the 
other bow ; now back to the quarter again ; now it was near ; 
and now so far that it was but a faint tinkle on the ear. By 
this time every man on board, seamen, archers and men- 
at-arms, were crowding the sides of the vessel. All round 
them there were noises in the darkness, and yet the wall of 
fog lay wet against their very faces. And the noises were 
such as were strange to their ears, always the same high 
musical clashing. 

The old shipman shook his head and crossed himself. 

" In thirty years upon the waters I have never heard the 
like," said he. " The Devil is ever loose in a fog. Well is 
he named the Prince of Darkness." 

A wave of panic passed over the vessel, and these rough 
and hardy men who feared no mortal foe shook with terror 
at the shadows of their own minds. They stared into the 
cloud with blanched faces and fixed eyes, as though each 
instant some fearsome shape might break in upon them. 
And as they stared there came a gust of wind. For a mo- 



The Spaniards on the Sea 207 

ment the fog-bank rose and a circle of ocean lay before 
them. 

It was covered with vessels. On all sides they lay thick 
upon its surface. They were huge caracks, high-ended and 
portly, with red sides and bulwarks carved and crusted with 
gold. Each had one great sail set and was driving down 
channel on the same course at the Basilisk. Their decks 
were thick with men, and from their high poops came the 
weird clashing which filled the air. For one moment they 
lay there, this wondrous fleet, surging slowly forward, 
framed in gray vapor. The next the clouds closed in and 
they had vanished from view. There was a long hush, and 
then a buzz of excited voices. 

; ' The Spaniards ! " cried a dozen bowmen and sailors. 

" I should have known it," said the shipman. " I call 
to mind on the Biscay Coast how they would clash their 
cymbals after the fashion of the heathen Moor with whom 
they fight ; but what would you have me do, fair sir ? If the 
fog; rises we are all dead men." 

" There were thirty ships at the least," said Knolles, with 
a moody brow. " If we have seen them I trow that they 
have also seen us. They will lay us aboard." 

" Nay, fair sir, it is in my mind that our ship is lighter 
and faster than theirs. If the fog hold another hour we 
should be through them." 

" Stand to your arms ! " yelled Knolles. " Stand to your 
arms ! They are on us ! " 

The Basilisk had indeed been spied from the Spanish Ad- 
miral's ship before the fog closed down. With so light a 
breeze, and such a fog, he could not hope to find her under 
sail. But by an evil chance not a bowshot from the great 
Spanish carack was a low galley, thin and swift, with 
oars which could speed her against wind or tide. She also 
had seen the Basilisk and it was to her that the Spanish 
leader shouted his orders. For a few minutes she hunted 
through the fog, and then sprang out of it like a lean and 
stealthy beast upon its prey. It was the sight of the long 
dark shadow gliding after them which had brought that 
wild shout of alarm from the lips of the English knight. 
In another instant the starboard oars of the galley had been 



208 Sir Nigel 

shipped, the sides of the two vessels grated together, and a 
stream of swarthy, red-capped Spaniards were swarming up 
the sides of the Basilisk and dropped with yells of triumph 
upon her deck. 

For a moment it seemed as if the vessel was captured 
without a blow being struck, for the men of the English ship 
had run wildly in all directions to look for their arms. 
Scores of archers might be seen under the shadow of the 
forecastle and the poop bending their bowstaves to string 
them with the cords from their waterproof cases. Others 
were scrambling over saddles, barrels and cases in wild 
search of their quivers. Each as he came upon his arrows 
pulled out a few to lend to his less fortunate comrades. In 
mad haste the men-at-arms also were feeling and grasping in 
the dark corners, picking up steel caps which would not 
fit them, hurling them down on the deck, and snatching 
eagerly at any swords or spears that came their way. 

The center of the ship was held by the Spaniards, and 
having slain all who stood before them, they were pressing 
up to either end before they were made to understand that 
it was no fat sheep but a most fierce old wolf which they had 
taken by the ears. 

If the lesson was late, it was the more thorough. At- 
tacked on both sides and hopelessly outnumbered, the Span- 
iards, who had never doubted that this little craft was a 
merchant-ship, were cut off to the last -man. It was no fight, 
but a butchery. In vain the survivors ran screaming prayers 
to the saints and threw themselves down into the galley 
alongside. It also had been riddled with arrows from the 
poop of the Basilisk, and both the crew on the deck and 
the galley-slaves in the outriggers at either side lay dead in 
rows under the overwhelming shower from above. From 
stem to rudder every foot of her was furred with arrows. 
It was but a floating coffin piled with dead and dying men, 
which wallowed in the waves behind them as the Basilisk 
lurched onward and left her in the fog. 

In their first rush on to the Basilisk, the Spaniards had 
seized six of the crew and four unarmed archers. Their 
throats had been cut and their bodies tossed overboard. 
Now the Spaniards who littered the deck, wounded and 



The Spaniards on the Sea 209 

dead, were thrust over the side in the same fashion. One 
ran down into the hold and had to be hunted and killed 
squealing under the blows like a rat in the darkness. Within 
half an hour no sign was left of this grim meeting in the 
fog save for the crimson splashes upon bulwarks and deck. 
The archers, flushed and merry, were unstringing their bows 
once more, for in spite of the water glue the damp air took 
the strength from the cords. Some were hunting about for 
arrows which might have stuck inboard, and some tying 
up small injuries received in the scuffle. But an anxious 
shadow still lingered upon the face of Sir Robert, and he 
peered fixedly about him through the fog. 

" Go among the archers, Hawthorne/' said he to his 
Squire. " Charge them on their lives to make no sound ! 
You also, Loring. Go to the afterguard and say the same 
to them. We are lost if one of these great ships should spy 
us." 

For an hour with bated breath they stole through the 
fleet, still hearing the cymbals clashing all round them, for 
in this way the Spaniards held themselves together. Once 
the wild music came from above their very prow, and so 
warned them to change their course. Once also a huge 
vessel loomed for an instant upon their quarter, but they 
turned two points away from her, and she blurred and van- 
ished. Soon the cymbals were but a distant tinkling, and at 
last they died gradually away. 

" It is none too soon," said the old shipman, pointing to 
a yellowish tint in the haze above them. " See yonder ! It 
is the sun which wins through. It will be here anon. Ah ! 
said I not so ? " 

A sickly sun, no larger and far dimmer than the moon, 
had indeed shown its face, with cloud-wreaths smoking 
across it. As they looked up it waxed larger and brighter 
before their eyes a yellow halo spread round it, one ray 
broke through, and then a funnel of golden light poured 
down upon them, widening swiftly at the base. A minute 
later they were sailing on a clear blue sea with an azure 
cloud-flecked sky above their heads, and such a scene be- 
neath it as each of them would carry in his memory whik 
memory remained* 



2io Sir Nigel 

They were in mid-channel. The white and green coasts 
of Picardy and of Kent lay clear upon either side of them. 
The wide channel stretched in front, deepening from the 
light blue beneath their prow to purple on the far sky-line. 
Behind them was that thick bank of cloud from which they 
had just burst. It lay like a gray wall from east to west, 
and through it were breaking the high shadowy forms of 
the ships of Spain. Four of them had already emerged, 
their red bodies, gilded sides and painted sails shining glori- 
ously in the evening sun. Every instant a fresh golden spot 
grew out of the fog, which blazed like a star for an instant, 
and then surged forward to show itself as the brazen beak 
of the great red vessel which bore it. Looking back, the 
whole bank of cloud was broken by the widespread line of 
noble ships which were bursting through it. The Basilisk 
lay a mile or more in front of them and two miles clear of 
their wing. Five miles farther off, in the direction of the 
French coast, two other small ships were running down 
Channel. A cry of joy from Robert Knolles and a hearty 
prayer of gratitude to the saints from the old shipman hailed 
them as their missing comrades, the cog Thomas and the 
Grace Dieu. 

But fair as was the view of their lost friends, and won- 
drous the appearance of the Spanish ships, it was not on 
those that the eyes of the men of the Basilisk were chiefly 
bent. A greater sight lay before them a sight which 
brought them clustering to the forecastle with eager eyes 
and pointing fingers. The English fleet was coming forth 
from the Winchelsea Coast. Already before the fog lifted 
a fast galleass had brought the news down Channel that the 
Spanish were on the sea, and the King's fleet was under way. 
Now their long array of sails, gay with the coats and colors 
of the towns which had furnished them, lay bright against the 
Kentish coast from Dungeness Point to Rye. Nine and 
twenty ships were there from Southampton, Shoreham, Win- 
chelsea, Hastings, Rye, Hythe, Romney, Folkestone, Deal, 
Dover and Sandwich. With their great sails slued round 
to catch the wind they ran out, whilst the Spanish, like the 
gallant foes that they have ever been, turned their heads 
landward to meet them. With flaunting banners and painted 



The Spaniards on the Sea 211 

sails, blaring trumpets and clashing cymbals, the two glitter- 
ing fleets, dipping and rising on the long Channel swell, drew 
slowly together. 

King Edward had been lying all day in his great ship 
the Philippa, a mile out from the Camber Sands, waiting for 
the coming of the Spaniards. Above the huge sail which 
bore the royal arms flew the red cross of England. Along 
the bulwarks were shown the shields of forty knights, the 
flower of English chivalry, and as many pennons floated 
from the deck. The high ends of the ship glittered with 
the weapons of the men-at-arms, and the waist was crammed 
with the archers. From time to time a crash of nakers and 
blare of trumpets burst from the royal ship, and was an- 
swered by her great neighbors, the Lion on which the Black 
Prince flew his flag, the Christopher with the Earl of Suf- 
folk, the Salle du Roi of Robert of Namur, and the Grace 
Marie of Sir Thomas Holland. Farther off lay the White 
Swan, bearing the arms of Mowbray, the Palmer of Deal, 
flying the Black Head of Audley, and the Kentish man 
under the Lord Beauchamp. The rest lay, anchored but 
ready, at the mouth of Winchelsea Creek. 

The King sat upon a keg in the fore part of his ship, with 
little John of Richmond, who was no more than a school- 
boy, perched upon his knee. Edward was clad in the black 
velvet jacket which was his favorite garb, and wore a small 
brown-beaver hat with a white plume at the side. A rich 
cloak of fur turned up with miniver drooped, from his shoul- 
ders. Behind him were a score of his knights, brilliant in 
silks and sarcenets/ some seated on an upturned boat and 
some swinging their legs from the bulwark. 

In front stood John Chandos in a party-colored jupon, one 
foot raised upon the anchor-stock, picking at the strings 
of his guitar and singing a song which he had learned at 
Marienburg when last he helped the Teutonic knights 
against the heathen. The King, his knights, and even the 
archers in the waist below them, laughed at the merry lilt 
and joined lustily in the chorus, while the men of the neigh- 
boring ships leaned over the side to hearken to the deep 
chant rolling over the waters. 

But there came a sudden interruption to the song. A 



212 Sir Nigel 

sharp, harsh shout came down from the lookout stationed in 
the circular top at the end of the mast. " I spy a sail two 
sails ! " he cried. 

John Bunce the King's shipman shaded his eyes and stared 
at the long fog-bank which shrouded the northern channel. 
Chandos, with his fingers over the strings of his guitar, the 
King, the knights, all gazed in the same direction. Two 
small dark shapes had burst forth, and then after some 
minutes a third. 

" Surely they are the Spaniards ? " said the King. 

" Nay, sire," the seaman answered, " the Spaniards are 
greater ships and are painted red. I know not what these 
may be." 

" But I could hazard a guess ! " cried Chandos. " Surely 
they are the three ships with my own men on their way 
to Brittany." 

" You have hit it, John," said the King. " But look, I 
pray you ! What in the name of the Virgin is that ? " 

Four brilliant stars of flashing light had shone out from 
different points of the cloud-bank. The next instant as 
many tall ships had swooped forth into the sunshine. A 
fierce shout rang from the King's ship, and was taken up 
all down the line, until the whole coast from Dungeness to 
Winchelsea echoed the warlike greeting. The King sprang 
up with a joyous face. 

" The game is afoot, my friends ! " said he. " Dress, 
John! Dress, Walter! Quick all of you! Squires, bring 
the harness ! Let each tend to himself, for the time is short." 

A strange sight it was to see these forty nobles tearing 
off their clothes and littering the deck with velvets and satins, 
whilst the squire of each, as busy as an ostler before a race, 
stooped and pulled and strained and riveted, fastening the 
bassinets, the leg-pieces, the front and the back plates, until 
the silken courtier had become the man of steel. When their 
work was finished, there stood a stern group of warriors 
where the light dandies had sung and jested round Sir John's 
guitar. Below in orderly silence the archers were mustering 
under their officers and taking their allotted stations. A 
dozen had swarmed up to their hazardous post in the little, 
tower in the tops. 



The Spaniards on the Sea 213 

" Bring wine, Nicholas ! " cried the King. " Gentlemen, 
ere you close your visors I pray you to take a last rouse with 
me. You will be dry enough, I promise you, before your lips 
are free once more. To what shall we drink, John? " 

" To the men of Spain," said Chandos, his sharp face 
peering like a gaunt bird through the gap in his helmet. 
" May their hearts be stout and their spirits high this day ! " 

"Well said, John!" cried the King, and the knights 
laughed joyously as they drank. " Now, fair sirs, let each 
to his post ! I am warden here on the forecastle. Do you, 
John, take charge of the afterguard. Walter, James, Wil- 
liam, Fitzallan, Goldesborough, Reginald you will stay with 
me ! John, you may pick whom you will and the others will 
bide with the archers. Now bear straight at the center, 
master-shipman. Ere yonder sun sets we will bring a red 
ship back as a gift to our ladies, or never look upon a lady's 
face again." 

The art of sailing into a wind had not yet been invented, 
nor was there any fore-and-aft canvas, save for small head- 
sails with which a vessel could be turned. Hence the Eng- 
lish fleet had to take a long slant down channel to meet 
their enemies ; but as the Spaniards coming before the wind 
were equally anxious to engage there was the less delay. 
With stately pomp and dignity, the two great fleets ap- 
proached. 

It chanced that one fine carack had outstripped its con- 
sorts and came sweeping along, all red and gold, with a 
fringe of twinkling steel, a good half-mile before the fleet. 
Edward looked at her with a kindling eye, for indeed she 
was a noble sight with the blue water creaming under her 
gilded prow. 

" This is a most worthy and debonair vessel, Master 
Bunce," said he to the shipnian beside him. " I would fain 
have a tilt with her. I pray you to hold us straight that we 
may bear her down." 

" If I hold her straight, then one or other must sink, and 
it may be both," the seaman answered. 

" I doubt not that with the help of our Lady we shall do 
our part," said the King. " Hold her straight, master-ship- 
man, as I have told you." 



214 Sir Nigel 

Now the two vessels were within arrow flight, and the 
bolts from the crossbowmen pattered upon the English ship. 
These short thick devil's darts were everywhere humming 
like great wasps through the air, crashing against the bul- 
warks, beating upon the deck, ringing loudly on the armor 
of the knights, or with a soft muffled thud sinking to the 
socket in a victim. 

The bowmen along either side of the Philippa had stood 
motionless waiting for their orders, but now there was a 
sharp shout from their leader, and every string twanged 
together. The air was full of their harping, together with 
the swish of the arrows, the long-drawn keening of the bow- 
men and the short deep bark of the under-officers. " Steady, 
steady! Loose steady! Shoot wholly together! Twelve 
score paces ! Ten score ! Now eight ! Shoot wholly to- 
gether ! " Their gruff shouts broke through the high shrill 
cry like the deep roar of a wave through the howl of the 
wind. 

As the two great ships hurtled together the Spaniard 
turned away a few points so that the blow should be a 
glancing one. None the less it was terrific. A dozen men in 
the tops of the carack were balancing a huge stone with 
the intention of dropping it over on the English deck. With 
a scream of horror they saw the mast cracking beneath 
them. Over it went, slowly at first, then faster, until with a 
crash it came down on its side, sending them flying like 
stones from a sling far out into the sea. A swath of crushed 
bodies lay across the deck where the mast had fallen. But 
the English ship had not escaped unscathed. Her mast held, 
it is true, but the mighty shock not only stretched every 
man flat upon the deck, but had shaken a score of those 
who lined her sides into the sea. One bowman was hurled 
from the top, and his body fell with a dreadful cr,ash at the 
very side of the prostrate King upon the forecastle. Many 
were thrown down with broken arms and legs from the high 
castles at either end into the waist of the ship. Worst of all, 
the seams had been opened by the crash and the water was 
gushing in at a dozen places. 

But these were men of experience and of discipline, men 
who had already fought together by sea and by land, so 



The Spaniards on the Sea 215 

that each knew his place and his duty. Those who could 
staggered to their feet and helped up a score or more of 
knights who were rolling and clashing in the scuppers un- 
able to rise for the weight of their armor. The bowmen 
formed up as before. The seamen ran to the gaping seams 
with oakum and with tar. In ten minutes order had been re- 
stored and the Philippa, though shaken and weakened, was 
ready for battle once more. The King was glaring round 
him like a wounded boar. 

" Grapple my ship with that," he cried, pointing to the 
crippled Spaniard, " for I would have possession of her ! " 

But already the breeze had carried them past it, and a 
dozen Spanish ships were bearing down full upon them. 

" We cannot win back to her, lest we show our flank to 
these others/' said the shipman. 

" Let her go her way ! " cried the knights. " You shall 
have better than her." 

" By Saint George ! you speak the truth," said the King, 
" for she is ours when we have time to take her. These 
also seem very worthy ships which are drawing up to Us, and 
I pray you, mastef-shipman, that you will have a tilt with 
the nearest." 

A great carack was within a bowshot of them and crossing 
their bows. Bunce looked up at his mast, and he saw that 
already it was shaken and drooping. Another blow and 
it would be over the side and his ship a helpless log upon 
the water. He jammed his helm round therefore, and ran 
his ship alongside the Spaniard, throwing out his hooks and 
iron chains as he did so. 

They, no less eager, grappled the Philippa both fore and 
aft, and the two vessels, linked tightly together, surged 
slowly over the long blue rollers. Over their bulwarks hung 
a cloud of men locked together in a desperate struggle, 
sometimes surging forward on to the deck of the Spaniard, 
sometimes recoiling back on to the King's ship, reeling this 
way and that, with the swords flickering like silver flames 
above them, while the long-drawn cry of rage and agony 
swelled up like a wolf's howl to the calm blue heaven above 
them. 

But now ship after ship of the English had come up, each 



216 Sir Nigel 

throwing its iron over the nearest Spaniard and striving 
to board her high red sides. Twenty ships were drifting in 
furious single combat after the manner of the Philippa, until 
the whole surface of the sea was covered with a succession 
of these desperate duels. The dismasted carack, which 
the King's ship had left behind it, had been carried by the 
Earl of Suffolk's Christopher, and the water was dotted 
with the heads of her crew. An English ship had been sunk 
by a huge stone discharged from an engine, and her men 
also were struggling in the waves, none having leisure to 
lend them a hand. A second English ship was caught be- 
tween two of the Spanish vessels and overwhelmed by a rush 
of boarders so that not a man of her was left alive. On the 
other hand, Mowbray and Audley had each taken the car- 
acks which were opposed to them, and the battle in the 
center, after swaying this way and that, was turning now 
in favor of the Islanders. 

The Black Prince, with the Lion, the Grace Marie and 
four other ships had swept round to turn the Spanish flank ; 
but the movement was seen, and the Spaniards had ten ships 
with which to meet it, one of them their great carack the 
St. lago di Compostella. To this ship the Prince had at- 
tached his little cog and strove desperately to board her, 
but her side was so high and the defense so desperate that 
his men could never get beyond her bulwarks but were 
hurled down again and again with a clang and clash to the 
deck beneath. Her side bristled with crossbowmen, who 
shot straight down on to the packed waist of the Lion, so 
that the dead lay there in heaps. But the most dangerous 
of all was a swarthy black-bearded giant in the tops, who 
crouched so that none could see him, but rising every now 
and then with a huge lump of iron between his hands, hurled 
it down with such force that nothing would stop it. Again 
and again these ponderous bolts crashed through the deck 
and hurtled down into the bottom of the ship, starting the 
planks and shattering all that came in their way. 

The Prince, clad in that dark armor which gave him his 
name, was directing the attack from the poop when the ship- 
man rushed wildly up to him with fear on his face. 

" Sire ! " he cried. " The ship may not stand against these 



The Spaniards on the Sea 217 

blows. A few more will sink her ! Already the water floods 
inboard." 

The Prince looked up, and as he did so the shaggy beard 
showed once more and two brawny arms swept downward. 
A great slug, whizzing down, beat a gaping hole in the deck, 
and fell rending and riving into the hold below. The mas- 
ter-mariner tore his grizzled hair. 

" Another leak ! " he cried. " I pray to Saint Leonard to 
bear us up this day ! Twenty of my shipmen are bailing with 
buckets, but the water rises on them fast. The vessel may 
not float another hour." 

The Prince had snatched a crossbow from one of his at- 
tendants and leveled it at the Spaniard's tops. At the very 
instant when the seaman stood erect with a fresh bar in his 
hands, the bolt took him full in the face, and his body fell 
forward over the parapet, hanging there head downward. 
A howl of exultation burst from the English at the sight, 
answered by a wild roar of anger from the Spaniards. A 
seaman had run from the Lion's hold and whispered in the 
ear of the shipman. He turned an ashen face upon the 
Prince. 

" It is even as I say, sire. The ship is sinking beneath 
our feet ! " he cried. 

" The more need that we should gain another," said he. 
" Sir Henry Stokes, Sir Thomas Stourton, William, John 
of Clifton, here lies our road ! Advance my banner, Thomas 
de Mohun ! On, and the day is ours ! " 

By a desperate scramble a dozen men, the Prince at their 
head, gained a footing on the edge of the Spaniard's deck. 
Some slashed furiously to clear a space, others hung over, 
clutching the rail with one hand and pulling up their com- 
rades from below. Every instant that they could hold their 
own their strength increased, till twenty had become thirty 
and thirty forty, when of a sudden the new-comers, still 
reaching forth to their comrades below, saw the deck be- 
neath them reel and vanish in a swirling sheet of foam. 
The Prince's ship had foundered. 

A yell went up from the Spaniards as they turned furi- 
ously upon the small band who had reached their deck. Al- 
ready the Prince and his men had carried the poop, and from 



2 1 8 Sir Nigel 

that high station they beat back their swarming enemies. 
But crossbow darts pelted and thudded among their ranks 
till a third of their number were stretched upon the planks. 
Lined across the deck they 'could hardly keep an unbroken 
front to the leaping, surging crowd who pressed upon them. 
Another rush, or another after that, must assuredly break 
them, for these dark men of Spain, hardened by an endless 
struggle with the Moors, were fierce and stubborn fighters. 
But hark to this sudden roar upon the farther side of them ! 

" Saint George ! Saint George ! A Knolles to the res- 
cue ! " A small craft had run alongside and sixty men had 
swarmed on the deck of the St. lago. Caught between two 
fires, the Spaniards wavered and broke. The fight became 
a massacre. Down from the poop sprang the Prince's men. 
Up from the waist rushed the new-comers. There were 
five dreadful minutes of blows and screams and prayers 
with struggling figures clinging to the bulwarks and sullen 
splashes into the water below. Then it was over, and a crowd 
of weary, overstrained men leaned panting upon their 
weapons, or lay breathless and exhausted upon the deck of 
the captured carack. 

The Prince had pulled up his visor and lowered his bea- 
ver. He smiled proudly as he gazed around him and wiped 
his streaming face. " Where is the shipman ? " he asked. 
" Let him lead us against another ship." 

" Nay, sire, the shipman and all his men have sunk in 
the Lion," said Thomas de Mohun, a young knight of the 
West Country, who carried the standard. " We have lost 
our ship and the half of our following. I fear that we can 
fight no more." 

" It matters the less since the day is already ours," said 
the Prince, looking over the sea. " My noble father's royal 
banner flies upon yonder Spaniard* Mowbray, Audley, Suf- 
folk, Beauchamp, Namur, Tracey, Stafford, Arundel, each 
has his flag over a scarlet carack, even as mine floats over 
this. See, yonder squadron is already far beyond our reach. 
But surely we owe thanks to you who came at so perilous a 
moment to our aid. Your face I have seen, and your coat- 
armor also, young sir, though I cannot lay my tongue to 
your name. Let me know that I may thank you." 



The Spaniards on the Sea 219 

He had turned to Nigel, who stood flushed and joyous 
at the head of the boarders from the Basilisk. 

" I am but a Squire, sire, and can claim no thanks, for 
there is nothing that I have done. Here is our leader." 

The Prince's eyes fell upon the shield charged with the 
Black Raven and the stern young face of him who bore it. 
" Sir Robert Knolles," said he, " I had thought you were 
on your way to Brittany." 

" I was so, sire, when I had the fortune to see this battle 
as I passed." 

The Prince laughed. " It would indeed be to ask too 
much, Robert, that you should keep on your course when 
much honor was to be gathered so close tovyou. But now 
I pray you that you will come back with us to Winchelsea, 
for well I know that my father would fain thank you for 
what you have done this day." 

But Robert Knolles shook his head. " I have your father's 
command, sire, and without his order I may not go against 
it. Our people are hard-pressed in Brittany, and it is not 
for me to linger on the way. I pray you, sire, if you must 
needs mention me to the King, to crave his pardon that I 
should have broken my journey thus." 

" You are right, Robert. God-speed you on your way ! 
And I would that I were sailing under your banner, for I 
see clearly that you will take your people where they may 
worshipfully win worship. Perchance I also may be in Brit- 
tany before the year is past." 

The Prince turned to the task of gathering his weary 
people together, and the Basilisks passed over the side once 
more and dropped down on to their own little ship. They 
poled her off from the captured Spaniard and set their sail 
with their prow for the south. Far ahead of them were their 
two consorts, beating towards them in the hope of giving 
help, while down Channel were a score of Spanish ships with 
a few of the English vessels hanging upon their skirts. The 
sun lay low on the water, and its level beams glowed upon 
the scarlet and gold of fourteen great caracks, each flying 
the cross of Saint George, and towering high above the 
cluster of English ships which, with brave waving of flags 
and blaring of music, were moving slowly towards the Kent- 
ish coast. 



XVIII 

HOW BLACK SIMON CLAIMED FORFEIT FROM THE 
KING OF SARK 

FOR a day and a half the small fleet made good prog- 
ress, but on the second morning, after sighting 
Cape de la Hague, there came a brisk land wind 
which blew them out to sea. It grew into a squall with rain 
and fog so that they were two more days beating back. 
Next morning they found themselves in a dangerous rock- 
studded sea with a small island upon their starboard quarter. 
It was girdled with high granite cliffs of a reddish hue, and 
slopes of bright-green grassland lay above them. A second 
smaller island lay beside it. Dennis the shipman shook his 
head as he looked. 

: ' That is Brechou," said he, " and the larger one is the 
Island of Sark. If ever I be cast away, I pray the saints 
that I may not be upon yonder coast ! " 

Knolles gazed across at it. " You say well, master-ship- 
man," said he. " It does appear to be a rocky and peril- 
ous spot." 

" Nay, it is the rocky hearts of those who dwell upon it 
that I had in my mind/' the old sailor answered. " We are 
well safe in three goodly vessels, but had we been here in 
a small craft I make no doubt that they would have already 
had t their boats out against us/' 

" Who then are these people, and how do they live upon 
so small and windswept an island ? " asked the soldier. 

;< They do not live from the island, fair sir, but from what 
they can gather upon the sea around it. They are broken 
folk from all countries, justice-fliers, prison-breakers, reav- 
ers, escaped bondsmen, murderers and staff-strikers who 
have made their way to this outland place and hold it against 
all comers. There is one here who could tell you of them 
and of their ways, for he was long time prisoner amongst 

220 



Black Simon Claimed Forfeit 221 

them." The seaman pointed to Black Simon, the dark man 
from Norwich, who was leaning against the side lost in 
moody thought and staring with a brooding eye at the dis- 
tant shore. 

"How now, fellow?" asked Knolles. "What is this I 
hear? Is it indeed sooth that you have been a captive upon 
this island?" 

" It is true, fair sir. For eight months I have been servant 
to the man whom they call their King. His name is La 
Muette, and he comes from Jersey nor is there under God's 
sky a man whom I have more desire to see." 

" Has he then mishandled you ? " 

Black Simon gave a wry smile and pulled off his jerkin. 
His lean sinewy back was waled and puckered with white 
scars. " He has left his sign of hand upon me," said he. 
" He swore that he would break me to his will, and thus he 
tried to do it. But most I desire to see him because he hath 
lost a wager to me and I would fain be paid." 

" This is a straifge saying," said Knolles. " What is this 
wager, and why should he pay you ? " 

" It is but a small matter," Simon answered ; " but I am a 
poor man and the payment would be welcome. Should it 
have chanced that we stopped at this island I should have 
craved your leave that I go ashore and ask for that which 
I have fairly won." 

Sir Robert Knolles laughed. " This business tickleth my 
fancy," said he. " As to stopping at the island, this ship- 
man tells me that we must needs wait a day and a night, 
for that we have strained our planks. But if you should 
go ashore, how will you be sure that you will be free to de- 
part, or that you will see this King of whom you speak ? " 

Black Simon's dark face was shining with a fierce joy. 
" Fair sir, I will ever be your debtor if you will let me go. 
Concerning what you ask, I know this island even as I know 
the streets of Norwich, as you may well believe seeing that 
it is but a small place and I upon it for near a year. Should 
I land after dark, I could win my way to the King's house, 
and if he be not dead or distraught with drink I could have 
speech with him alone, for I know his ways and his hours 
and how he may be found. I would ask only that Aylwar<J 



222 Sir Nigel 

the archer may go with me, that I may have one friend at 
my side if things should chance to go awry." 

Knolles thought awhile. " It is much that you ask," said 
he, " for by God's truth I reckon that you and this friend of 
yours are two of my men whom I would be least ready to 
lose. I have seen you both at grips with the Spaniards and 
I know you. But I trust you, and if we must indeed stop 
at this accursed place, then you may do as you will. If you 
liave deceived me, or if this is a trick by which you design 
to leave me, then God be your friend when next we meet, 
for man will be of small avail ! " 

It proved that not .only the seams had to be calked but 
that the cog Thomas was out of fresh water. The ships 
moored therefore near the Isle of Brechou, where springs 
were to be found. There were no people upon this little 
patch, but over on the farther island many figures could be 
seen watching' them, and the twinkle of steel from among 
them showed that they were armed men. One boat had ven- 
tured forth and taken a good look at them, but had hurried 
back with the warning that they were too strong to be 
touched. 

Black Simon found Aylward seated under the poop with 
his back against Bartholomew the bowyer. He was whis- 
tling merrily as he carved a girl's face upon the horn of his 
bow. 

" My friend," said Simon, " will you come ashore to-night 
for I have need of your help ? " 

Aylward crowed lustily. ** Will I come, Simon ? By my 
hilt, I shall be right glad to put my foot on the good brown 
earth once more. All my life I have trod it, and yet I would 
never have learned its worth had I not journeyed in these 
cursed ships. We will go on shore together, Simon, and we 
will seek out the women, if there be any there, for it seems 
a long year since I heard their gentle voices, and my eyes 
are weary of such faces as Bartholomew's or thine." 

Simon's grim features relaxed into a smile. " The only 
face that you will see ashore, Samkin, will bring you small 
comfort," said he, " and I warn you that this is no easy 
errand, but one which may be neither sweet nor fair, for 
if these people take us our end will be a cruel one," 



Black Simon Claimed Forfeit 223 

"By my hilt," said Aylward, " I am with yon, gossip, 
wherever you may go ! Say no more, therefore, for I am 
weary of living like a cony in a hole, and I shall be right 
glad to stand by you in your venture." 

That night, two hours after dark, a small boat put forth 
from the Basilisk. It contained Simon, Aylward and two 
seamen. The soldiers carried their swords, and Black Si- 
mon bore a brown biscuit-bag over his shoulder. Under 
his direction the rowers skirted the dangerous surf which 
beat against the cliffs until they came to a spot where an 
outlying reef formed a breakwater. Within was a belt of 
calm water and a shallow cover with a sloping beach. Here 
the boat was dragged up and the seamen were ordered to 
wait, while Simon and Aylward started on their errand. 

With the assured air of a man who knows exactly where 
he is and whither he is going, the man-at-arms began to 
clamber up a narrow fern-lined cleft among the rocks. It 
was no easy ascent in the darkness, but Simon climbed on 
like an old dog hot upon a scent, and the panting Aylward 
struggled after as best he might. At last they were at 
the summit and the archer threw himself down upon the 
grass. 

" Nay, Simon, I have not enough breath to blow out a 
candle," said he. " Stint your haste for a minute, since we 
have a long night before us. Surely this man is a friend 
indeed, if you hasten so to see him." 

" Such a friend," Simon answered, " that I have often 
dreamed of our next meeting. Now before that moon has 
set it will have come." 

" Had it been a wench I could have understood it," said 
Aylward. " By these ten finger-bones, if Mary of the mill 
or little Kate of Compton had waited me on the brow of this 
cliff, I should have come up it and never known it was there. 
But surely I see houses and hear voices over yonder in the 
shadow ? " 

" It is their town," whispered Simon. " There are a hun- 
dred as bloody-minded cutthroats as are to be found in 
Christendom beneath those roofs. Hark to that ! " 

A fierce burst of laughter came out of the darkness, fol- 
lowed by a long cry of pain. 



224 Sir Nigel 

" All-hallows be with us ! " cried Aylward. " What is 
that?" 

" As like as not some poor devil has fallen into their 
clutches, even as I did. Come this way, Samkin, for there 
is a peat-cutting where we may hide. Aye, here it is, but 
deeper and broader than of old. Now follow me close, for 
if we keep within it we shall find ourselves a stone cast off 
the King's house." 

Together they crept along the dark cutting. Suddenly 
Simon seized Aylward by the shoulder and pushed him into 
the shadow of the bank. Crouching in the darkness, they 
heard footsteps and voices upon the farther side of the 
trench. Two men sauntered along it and stopped almost 
at the very spot where the comrades were lying. Ayl- 
ward could see their dark figures outlined against the starry 
sky. 

" Why should you scold, Jacques," said one of them, 
speaking a strange half-French, half-English lingo. " Le 
diable t'emporte for a grumbling rascal. You won a woman 
and I got nothing. What more would you have ? " 

" You will have your chance off the next ship, mon gar- 
gon, but mine is passed. A woman, it is true an old peas- 
ant out of the fields, with a face as yellow as a kite's claw. 
But Gaston, who threw a nine against my eight, got as fair 
a little Normandy lass as ever your eyes have seen. Curse 
the dice, I say ! And as to my woman, I will sell her to you 
for a firkin of Gascony." 

" I have no wine to spare, but I will give you a keg of 
apples," said the other. " I had it out of the Peter and Paul, 
the Falmouth boat that struck in Creux Bay." 

" Well, well your apples may be the worse for keeping, 
but so is old Marie, and we can cry quits on that. Come 
round and drink a cup over the bargain." 

They shuffled onward in the darkness. 

" Heard you ever such villainy ? " cried Aylward, breath- 
ing fierce and hard. " Did you hear them, Simon ? A 
woman for a keg of apples! And my heart's root is sad 
for the other one, the girl of Normandy. Surely we can 
land to-morrow and burn all these water-rats, out of their 
nest," 



Black Simon Claimed Forfeit 225 

" Nay, Sir Robert will not waste time or strength ere he 
reach Brittany." 

" Sure I am that if my little master Squire Loring had 
the handling of it, every woman on this island would be 
free ere another day had passed." 

" I doubt it not," said Simon. " He is one who makes 
an idol of woman, after the manner of those crazy knight 
errants. But Sir Robert is a true soldier and hath only his 
purpose in view." 

" Simon," said Aylward, " the light is not overgood and 
the place is cramped for sword-play, but if you will step 
out into the open I will teach you whether my master is a 
true soldier or not." 

" Tut, man ! you are as foolish yourself," said Simon. 
" Here we are with our work in hand, and yet you must 
needs fall out with me on our way to it. I say nothing 
against your master save that he hath the way of his fellows 
who follow dreams and fancies. But Knolles looks neither 
to right nor left and walks forward to his mark. Now, let 
us on, for the time passes." 

" Simon, your words are neither good nor fair. When 
we are back on shipboard we will speak further of this mat- 
ter. Now lead on, I pray you, and let us see some more of 
this ten-devil island." 

For half a mile Simon led the way until they came to a 
large house which stood by itself. Peering at it from the 
edge of the cutting, Aylward could see that it was made 
from the wreckage of many vessels, for at each corner a 
prow was thrust out. Lights blazed within, and there came 
the sound of a strong voice singing a gay song which was 
taken up by a dozen others in the chorus. 

" All is well, lad ! " whispered Simon in great delight. 
" That is the voice of the King. It is the very song he used 
to sing. ' Les deux filles de Pierre.' 'Fore God, my back 
tingles at the very sound of it. Here we will wait until his 
company take their leave." 

Hour after hour they crouched in the peat-cutting, lis^ 
tening to the noisy songs of the revelers within, some French, 
some English, and all growing fouler and less articulate 
R Oft flight wrs ot}< Once 9 quarrel broke out 



226 Sir Nigel 

clamor was like a cagefnl of wild beasts at feeding-time. 
Then a health was drunk and there was much stamping and 
cheering. 

Only once was the long vigil broken. A woman came 
forth from the house and walked up and down, with her 
face sunk upon her breast. She was tall and slender, but 
her features could not be seen for a wimple over her head. 
Weary sadness could be read in her bowed back and drag- 
ging steps. Once only they saw her throw her two hands 
up to Heaven as one who is beyond human aid. Then she 
passed slowly into the house again. A moment later the 
door of the hall was flung open, and a shouting stumbling 
throng came crowding forth, with whoop and yell, into the 
silent night. Linking arms and striking up a chorus, they 
marched past the peat-cutting, their voices dwindling slowly 
away as they made for their homes. 

"Now, Samkin, now!" cried Simon, and jumping out 
from the hiding-place he made for the door. It had not 
yet been fastened. The two comrades sprang inside. 
Then Simon drew the bolts so that none might interrupt 
them. 

A long table littered with flagons and beakers lay before 
them. It was lit up by a line of torches, which flickered and 
smoked in their iron sconces. At the farther end a solitary 
man was seated. His head rested upon his two hands, as if 
he were befuddled with wine, but at the harsh sound of the 
snapping bolts he raised his face and looked angrily around 
him. It was a strange powerful head, tawny and shaggy 
like -a lion's, with a tangled beard and a large harsh face, 
bloated and blotched with vice. He laughed as the new- 
comers entered, thinking that two of his boon companions 
had returned to finish a flagon. Then he stared hard and 
he passed his hand over h}s eyes like one who thinks he may 
be dreaming. 

" Mon Dieu!" he cried. " Who are you and whence 
come you at this hour of the night ? Is this the way to break 
into our royal presence ? " 

Simon approached up one side of the table and Aylward 
up the other. When they were close to the King, the man- 
at-arms plucked a torch from its socket and held it to his 



Black Simon Claimed Forfeit 227 

own face. The King staggered back with a cry, as he gazed 
at that grim visage. 

" Le diable noir!" he cried. " Simon, the Englishman! 
What make you here ? " 

Simon put his hand upon his shoulder. " Sit here ! " said 
he, and he forced the King into his seat. " Do you sit on 
the farther side of him, Aylward. We make a merry group, 
do we not ? Often have I served at this table, but never did 
I hope to drink at it. Fill your cup, Samkin, and pass the 
flagon." 

The King looked from one to the other with terror in his 
bloodshot eyes. " What would you do? " he asked. " Are 
you mad, that you should come here. One shout and you 
are at my mercy." 

" Nay, my friend, I have lived too long in your house 
not to know the ways of it. No man-servant ever slept 
beneath your roof, for you feared lest your throat would 
be cut in the night-time. You may shout and shout, if it 
so please you. It chanced that I was passing on my way 
from England in those ships which lie off La Brechou, 
and I thought I would come in and have speech with 
you." 

" Indeed, Simon, I am right glad to see you," said the 
King, cringing away from the fierce eyes of the soldier. 
" We were good friends in the past, were we not, and I can- 
not call to mind that I.have ever done you injury. When 
you made your way to England by swimming to the Levan- 
tine there was none more glad in heart than I." 

" If I cared to doff my doublet I could show you the 
marks of what your friendship has done for me in the past," 
said Simon. " It is printed on my back as clearly as on my 
memory. Why, you foul dog, there are the very rings upon 
the wall to which my hands were fastened, and there the 
stains upon the boards on which my blood has dripped! 
Is it not so, you king of butchers ? " 

The pirate chief turned whiter still. " It may be that life 
here was somewhat rough, Simon, but if I have wronged 
you in anyway, I will surely make amends. What do you 
ask?" 

"' I ask only one thing, and I have come hither that I may 



228 Sir Nigel 

get it. It is that you pay me forfeit for that you have lost 
your wager." 

" My wager, Simon ! I call to mind no wager." 

" But I will call it to your mind, and then I will take my 
payment. Often have you sworn that you would break my 
courage. ' By my head ! ' you have cried to me. ' You will 
crawl at my feet ! ' and again : ' I will wager my head that 
I will tame you ! ' Yes, yes, a score of times you have said 
so. In my heart, as I listened, I have taken up your gage. 
And now, dog, you have lost and I am here to claim the 
forfeit." 

His long heavy sword flew from its sheath. The King, 
with a howl of despair, flung his arms round him, and 
they rolled together under the table. Aylward sat with a 
ghastly face, and his toes curled with horror at the sight, 
for he was still new to scenes of strife and his blood 
was too cold for such a deed. When Simon rose he 
tossed something into his bag and sheathed his bloody 
sword. 

" Come, Samkin, our work is well done," said he. 

" By my hilt, if I had known what it was I would have 
been less ready to come with you," said the archer. " Could 
you not have clapped a sword in his fist and let him take his 
chance in the hall ? " 

" Nay, Samkin, if you had such memories as I, you would 
have wished that he should die like a sheep and not like a 
man. What chance did he give me when he had the power ? 
And why should I treat him better? But, Holy Virgin, 
what have we here ? " 

At the farther end of the table a woman was standing. 
An open door behind her showed that she had come from 
the inner room of the house. By her tall figure the comrades 
knew that she was the same that they had already seen. Her 
face had once been fair, but now was white and haggard 
with wild dark -eyes full of a hopeless terror and despair. 
Slowly she paced up the room, her gaze fixed not upon the 
comrades, but upon the dreadful thing beneath the table. 
Then as she stooped and was sure she burst into loud laugh- 
ter and clapped her hands. 

< f Who .shall say there is no God ? " she cried. " Who 







BUT, HOLY VIRGIN, WHAT HAVE WE HERE ? 



Black Simon Claimed Forfeit 229 

shall say that prayer is unavailing? Great sir, brave sir, 
let me kiss that conquering hand ! " 

" Nay, nay, dame, stand back ! Well, if you must needs 
have one of them, take this which is the clean one." 

" It is the other I crave that which is red with bis blood ! 
Oh ! joyful night when my lips have been wet with it ! Now 
I can die in peace ! " 

" We must go, Aylward," said Simon. " In another hour 
the dawn will have broken. In daytime a rat could not cross 
this island and pass unseen. Come, man, and at once ! " 

But Aylward was at the woman's side. u Come with us, 
fair dame," said he. " Surely we can, at least, take you 
from this island, and no such change can be for the worse." 

" Nay," said she, " the saints in Heaven cannot help me 
now until they take me to my rest. There is no place for 
me in the world beyond, and all my friends were slain on 
the day I was taken. Leave me, brave men, and let me care 
for myself. Already it lightens in the east, and black will be 
your fate if you are taken. Go, and may the blessing of 
one who was once a holy nun go with you and guard you 
from danger ! " 

Sir Robert Knolles was pacing the deck in the early 
morning, when he heard the sound of oars, and there were 
his two night-birds climbing up the side. 

" So, fellow," said he, " have you had speech with the 
King of Sark?" 

" Fair sir, I have seen him." 

" And he has paid his forfeit? " 

" He has paid it, sir ! " 

Knolles looked with curiosity at the bag which Simon 
bore. " What carry you there ? " he asked. 

" The stake that he has lost." 

" What was it then? A goblet? A silver plate? " 

For answer Simon opened his bag and shook it on the 
deck. 

Sir Robert turned away with a whistle. " 'Fore God ! " 
said he, " it is in my mind that I carry some hard men with 
me to Brittany." 



XIX 

HOW A SQUIRE OF ENGLAND MET A SQUIRE 
OF FRANCE 

SIR ROBERT KNOLLES with his little fleet had 
sighted the Breton coast near Cancale; they had 
rounded the Point du Grouin, and finally had sailed 
past the port of St. Malo and down the long narrow estuary 
of the Ranee until they were close to the old walled city of 
Dinan, which was held by that Montfort faction whose cause 
the English had espoused. Here the horses had been dis- 
embarked, the stores were unloaded, and the whole force 
encamped outside the city, whilst the leaders waited for news 
as to the present state of affairs, and where there was most 
hope of honor and profit. 

The whole of France was feeling the effects of that war 
with England which had already lasted some ten years, but 
no Province was in so dreadful a condition as this unhappy 
land of Brittany. In Normandy or Picardy the inroads of 
the English were periodical with intervals of rest between; 
but Brittany was torn asunder by constant civil war apart 
from the grapple of the two great combatants, so that there 
was no surcease of her sufferings. The struggle had begun 
in 1341 through the rival claims of Montfort and of Blois 
to the vacant dukedom. England had taken the part of 
Montfort, France that of Blois. Neither faction was strong 
enough to destroy the other, and so after ten years of con- 
tinual fighting, history recorded a long ineffectual list of 
surprises and ambushes, of raids and skirmishes, of towns 
taken and retaken, of alternate victory and defeat, in which 
neither party could claim a supremacy. It mattered nothing 
that Montfort and Blois had both disappeared from the 
scene, the one dead and the other taken by the English. 
Their wives caught up the swords which had dropped from 

230 



A Squire of England 231 

the hands of their lords, and the long struggle went on even 
more savagely than before. 

In the south and east the Blois faction held the country, 
and Nantes the capital was garrisoned and occupied by a 
strong French army. In the north and west the Montfort 
party prevailed, for the island kingdom was at their back 
and always fresh sails broke the northern sky-line bearing 
adventurers from over the channel. 

Between these two there lay a broad zone comprising all 
the center of the country which was a land of blood and 
violence, where no law prevailed save that of the sword. 
From end to end it was dotted with castles, some held for one 
side, some for the other, and many mere robber strongholds, 
the scenes of gross and monstrous deeds, whose brute owners, 
knowing that they could never be called to account, made 
war upon all mankind, and wrung with rack and with flame 
the last shilling from all who fell into their savage hands. 
The fields had long been untilled. Commerce was dead. 
From Rennes in the east to Hennebon in the west, and from 
Dinan in the north to Nantes in the south, there was no 
spot where a man's life or a woman's honor was safe. Such 
was the land, full of darkness and blood, the saddest, black- 
est spot in Christendom, into which Knolles and his men 
were now advancing. 

But there was no sadness in the young heart of Nigel, 
as he rode by the side of Knolles at the head of a clump 
of spears, nor did it seem to him that Fate had led him 
into an unduly arduous path. On the contrary, he blessed 
the good fortune which had sent him into so delightful a 
country, and it seemed to him as he listened to dreadful 
stories of robber barons, and looked round at the black scars 
of war which lay branded upon the fair faces of the hills, 
that no hero of romances or trouveur had ever journeyed 
through such a land of promise, with so fair a chance of 
knightly venture and honorable advancement. 

The Red Ferret was one deed toward his vow. Surely 
a second, and perhaps a better, was to be found somewhere 
upon this glorious country-side. He had borne himself as 
the others had in the sea-fight, and could not count it to his 
credit where he had done no more than mere duty. Some- 



2 32 Sir Nigel 

thing beyond this was needed for such a deed as could be 
laid at the feet of the Lady Mary. But surely it was to be 
found here in fermenting war-distracted Brittany. Then 
with two done it would be strange if he could not find occa- 
sion for that third one, which would complete his service 
and set him free to look her in the face once more. With 
the great yellow horse curveting beneath him, his Guildford 
armor gleaming in the sun, his sword' clanking against his 
stirrup-iron, and his father's tough ash-spear in his hand, 
he rode with a light heart and a smiling face, looking eagerly 
to right and to left for any chance which his good Fate 
might send. 

The road from Dinan to Caulnes, along which the small 
army was moving, rose and dipped over undulating ground, 
with a bare marshy plain upon the left where the river 
Ranee ran down to the sea, while upon the right lay a 
wooded country with a few wretched villages, so poor and 
sordid that they had nothing with which to tempt the spoiler. 
The peasants had left them at the first twinkle of a steel 
cap, and lurked at the edges of the woods, ready in' an 
instant to dive into those secret recesses known only to 
themselves. These creatures suffered sorely at the hands 
of both parties, but when the chance came they revenged 
their wrongs on either in a savage way which brought fresh 
brutalities upon their heads. 

The new-comers soon had a chance of seeing to what 
lengths they would go, for in the roadway near to Caulnes 
they came upon an English man-at-arms who had been way- 
laid and slain by them. How they had overcome him could 
not be told, but how they had slain him within his armor 
was horribly apparent, for they had carried such a rock 
as eight men could lift, and had dropped it upon him as he 
lay, so that he was spread out in his shattered case like a 
crab beneath a stone. Many a fist was shaken at the distant 
woods and many a curse hurled at those who haunted them, 
as the column of scowling soldiers passed the murdered man, 
whose badge of the Molene cross showed him to have been 
a follower of that House of Bentley, whose head, Sir Walter, 
was at that time leader of the British forces in the country. 

Sir Robert Knolles had served in Brittany before, and he. 



A Squire of England 233 

marshaled his men on the march with the skill and caution 
of the veteran soldier, the man who leaves as little as pos- 
sible to chance, having too steadfast a mind to heed the fool 
who may think him overcautious. He had recruited a num- 
ber of bowmen and men-at-arms at Dinan ; so that his fol- 
lowing was now close upon five hundred men. In front 
under his own leadership were fifty mounted lancers, fully 
armed and ready for any sudden attack. Behind them on 
foot came the archers, and a second body of mounted men 
closed up the rear. Out upon either flank moved small 
bodies of cavalry, and a dozen scouts, spread fanwise, probed 
every gorge and dingle in front of the column. So for three 
days he moved slowly down the Southern Road. 

Sir Thomas Percy and Sir James Astley had ridden to 
the head of the column, and Knolles conferred with them 
as they marched concerning the plan of their campaign. 
Percy and Astley were young and hot-headed with wild 
visions of dashing deeds and knight errantry, but Knolles 
with cold, clear brain and purpose of iron held ever his 
object in view. 

" By the holy Dunstan and all the saints of Lindisfarne ! " 
cried the fiery Borderer, " it goes to my heart to ride for- 
ward when there are such honorable chances on either side 
of us. Have I not heard that the French are at Evran be- 
yond the river, and is it not sooth that yonder castle, the 
towers of which I see above the woods, is in the hands of 
a traitor, who is false to his liege lord of Montf ord ? There 
is little profit to be gained upon this road, for the folk seem 
to have no heart for war. Had we ventured as far over 
the marches of Scotland as we now are in Brittany, we 
should not have lacked some honorable venture or chance 
of winning worship." 

" You say truth, Thomas," cried Astley, a red-faced and 
choleric young man. " It is well certain that the French 
will not come to us, and surely it is the more needful that 
we go to them. In sdoth, any soldier who sees us would 
smile that we should creep for three days along this road 
as though a thousand dangers lay before us, when we have 
but poor broken peasants to deal with." 

But Robert Knolles shook his head. " We know not what 



234 Sir Nigel 

are in these woods, or behind these hills," said he, " and 
when I know nothing it is my wont to prepare for the worst 
which may befall. It is but prudence so to do." 

" Your enemies might find some harsher name for it," 
said Astley with a sneer. " Nay, you need not think to scare 
me by glaring at me, Sir Robert, nor will your ill-pleasure 
change my thoughts. I have faced fiercer eyes than thine, 
and I have not feared." 

" Your speech, Sir James, is neither courteous nor good," 
said Knolles, " and if I were a free man I would cram your 
words down your throat with the point of my dagger. But 
I am here to lead these men in profit and honor, not to 
quarrel with every fool who has not the wit to understand 
how soldiers should be led. Can you not see that if I make 
attempts here and there, as you would have me do, I shall 
have weakened my strength before I come to that part where 
it can best be spent ? " 

" And where is that ? " asked Percy. " 'Fore God, Astley, 
it is in my rdind that we ride with one who knows more of 
war than you or I, and that we would be wise to be guided 
by his rede. Tell us then what is in your mind." 

" Thirty miles from here," said Knolles, " there is, as I 
am told, a fortalice named Ploermel, and within it is one 
Bambro, an Englishman, with a good garrison. No great 
distance from him is the Castle of Josselin where dwells 
Robert of Beaumanoir with a great following of Bretons. 
It is my intention that we should join Bambro, and so be 
in such strength that we may throw ourselves Upon Josse- 
lin, and by taking it become the masters of all mid- 
Brittany, and able to make head against the Frenchmen in 
the south." 

" Indeed I think that you can do no better," said Percy 
heartily, " and I swear to you on jeopardy of my soul that 
I will stand by you in the matter! I doubt not that when 
we come deep into their land they will draw together and do 
what they may to make head against us ; but up to now I 
swear by all the saints of Lindisfarne that I should have 
seen more war in a summer's day in Liddesdale or at the 
Forest of Jedburgh than any that Brittany has shown us. 
But see, yonder horsemen are riding in. They are our own 



A Squire of England 235 

hobblers, are they not ? And who are these who are lashed 
to their stirrups ? " 

A small troop of mounted bowmen had ridden out of an 
oak grove upon the left of the road. They trotted up to 
where the three knights had halted. Two wretched peasants 
whose wrists had been tied to their leathers came leaping and 
straining beside the horses in their effort not to be dragged 
off their feet. One Was a tall, gaunt, yellow-haired man, the 
other short and swarthy, but both so crusted with dirt, so 
matted and tangled and ragged, that they were more like 
beasts of the wood than human beings. 

"What is this?" asked Knolles. "Have I not ordered 
you to leave the countryfolk at peace? " 

The leader of the archers, old Wat of Carlisle, held up 
a sword, a girdle and a dagger. " If it please you, fair sir/' 
said he, " I saw the glint of these, and I thought them no 
fit tools for hands which were made for the /spade and the 
plow. But when we had ridden them down and taken them, 
there was the Bentley cross upon each, and we knew that 
they had belonged to yonder dead Englishman upon the 
road, Surely then, these are two of the villains who have 
slain him, and it is right that we do justice upon them." 

Sure enough, upon sword, girdle and dagger shone the 
silver Molene cross which had gleamed on the dead man's 
armor. Knolles looked at them and then at the prisoners 
with a face of stone. At the sight of those fell eyes they 
had dropped with inarticulate howls upon their knees, 
screaming out their protests in a tongue which none could 
understand. 

" We must have the roads safe for wandering English- 
men," said Knolles. " These men must surely die. Hang 
them to yonder tree." 

He pointed to a live-oak by the roadside, and rode on- 
ward upon his way in converse with his fellow-knights. But 
the old bowman had ridden after him. 

" If it please you, Sir Robert, the bowmen would fain put 
these men to death in their own fashion," said he. 

" So that they die, I care not how," Knolles answered 
carelessly, and looked back no more. 

Human life was cheap in those stern days when the foot- 



236 Sir Nigel 

men of a stricken army or the crew of a captured ship were 
slain without any question or thought of mercy by the vic- 
tors. War was a rude game with death for the stake, and 
the forfeit was always claimed on the one side and paid on 
the other without doubt or hesitation. Only the knight 
might be spared, since his ransom made him worth more 
alive than dead. To men trained in such a school, with 
death forever hanging over their 'own heads, it may be well 
believed that the slaying of two peasant murderers was a 
small matter. 

And yet there was special reason why upon this occasion 
the bowmen wished to keep the deed in their own hands. 
Ever since their dispute aboard the Basilisk, there had been 
ill-feeling betwixt Bartholomew the old bald-headed bow- 
yer, and long Ned Widdington the Dalesman, which had 
ended in a conflict at Dinan, in which not only they, but a 
dozen of their friends had been laid upon the cobble-stones. 
The dispute raged round their respective knowledge and 
skill with the bow, and now some quick wit amongst the 
soldiers had suggested a grim fashion in which it should be 
put to the proof, once for all, which could draw the surer 
shaft. 

A thick wood lay two hundred paces from the road upon 
which the archers stood. A stretch of smooth grassy sward 
lay between. The two peasants were led out fifty yards from 
the road, with their faces toward the wood. There they 
stood, held on a leash, and casting many a wondering fright-" 
ened glance over their shoulders at the preparations which 
were being made behind them. 

Old Bartholomew and the big Yorkshireman had stepped 
out of the ranks and stood side by side each with his strung 
bow in his left hand and a single arrow in his right. With 
care they had drawn on and greased their shooting-gloves 
and fastened their bracers. They plucked and cast up a few 
blades of grass to measure the wind, examined every small 
point of their tackle, turned their sides to the mark, and 
widened their feet in a firmer stance. From all sides came 
chaff and counsel from their comrades. 

" A three-quarter wind, bowyer ! " cried one. " Aim a 
body's breadth to the right ! " 



A Squire of England 237 

" But not thy body's breadth, bowyer," laughed another. 
" Else may you be overwide." 

" Nay, this wind will scarce turn a well-drawn shaft," 
said a third. " Shoot dead upon him and you will be clap 
in the clout." 

" Steady, Ned, for the good name of the Dales," cried a 
Yorkshireman. " Loose easy and pluck not, or I am five 
crowns the poorer man." 

" A week's pay on Bartholomew ! " shouted another. 
" Now, old fat-pate, fail me not ! " 

" Enough, enough ! Stint your talk ! " cried the old bow- 
man, Wat of Carlisle. " Were your shafts as quick as your 
tongues there would be no facing you. Do you shoot upon 
the little one, Bartholomew, and you, Ned, upon the other. 
Give them law until I cry the word, then loose in your own 
fashion and at your own time. Are you ready ! Hola, there, 
Hayward, Beddington, let them run ! " 

The leashes were torn away, and the two men, stooping 
their heads, ran madly for the shelter of the wood amid 
such a howl from the archers as beaters may give when the 
hare starts from its form. The two bowmen, each with his 
arrow drawn to the pile, stood like russet statues, menacing, 
motionless, their eager eyes fixed upon the fugitives, their 
bow-staves rising slowly as the distance between them 
lengthened. The Bretons were half-way to the wood, and 
still Old Wat was silent. It may have been mercy or it may 
have been mischief, but at least the chase should have a fair 
chance of life. At six score paces he turned his grizzled 
head at last. 

" Loose ! " he cried. 

At the word the Yorkshireman's bow-string twanged. It 
was not for nothing that he had earned the name of being 
one of the deadliest archers of the North and had twice 
borne away the silver arrow of Selby. Swift and true flew 
the fatal shaft and buried itself to the feather in the curved 
back of the long yellow-haired peasant. Without a sound 
he fell upon his face and lay stone-dead upon the grass, the 
one short white plume between his dark shoulders to mark 
where Death had smote him. 

The Yorkshireman threw his bowstave into the air ancj 



238 Sir Nigel 



danced in triumph, whilst his comrades roared their fierce 
delight in a shout of applause, which changed suddenly 
into a tempest of hooting and of laughter. 

The smaller peasant, more cunning than his comrade, had 
run more slowly, but with many a backward glance. He 
had marked his companion's fate and had waited with keen 
eyes until he saw the bowyer loose his string. At the mo- 
ment he had thrown himself flat upon the grass and had 
heard the arrow scream above him, and seen, it quiver in 
the turf beyond. Instantly he had sprung to his feet again 
and amid wild whoops and halloos from the bowmen had 
made for the shelter of the wood. Now he had reached it, 
and ten score good paces separated him from the nearest 
of his persecuters. Surely they could not reach him here. 
With the tangled brushwood behind him he was as safe as 
a rabbit at the mouth of his burrow. In the joy of his heart 
he must needs dance in derision and snap his ringers at the 
foolish men who had let him slip. He threw back his head, 
howling at them like a dog, and at the instant an arrow 
struck him full in the throat and laid him dead among the 
bracken. There was a hush of surprised silence and then 
a loud cheer burst from the archers. 

" By the rood of Beverley ! " cried old Wat, " I have not 
seen a finer roving shaft this many a year. In my own best 
day I could not have bettered it. Which of you loosed it ? " 

" It was Aylward of Tilford Samkin Aylward," cried 
a score of voices, and the bowman, flushed at his own fame, 
was pushed to the front. 

" Indeed I 'would that it had been at a nobler mark," said 
he. " He might have gone free for me, but I could not keep 
my fingers from the string when he turned to jeer at us." 

" I see well that you are indeed a master-bowman," said 
old Wat, " and it is comfort to my soul to think that if I 
fall I leave such a man behind me to hold high the credit 
of our craft. Now gather your shafts and on, for Sir Robert 
awaits us on the brow of the hill." 

All day Knolles and his men marched through the same 
wild and deserted country, inhabited only by these furtive 
creatures, hares to the strong and wolves to the weak, who 
hovered in the shadows of the wood. Ever and anon upon 



A Squire of England 239 

the tops of the hills they caught a glimpse of horsemen who 
watched them from a distance and vanished when ap- 
proached. Sometimes bells rang an alarm from villages 
amongst the hills, and twice they passed castles which drew 
up their drawbridges at their approach and lined their walls 
with hooting soldiers as they passed. The Englishmen gath- 
ered a few oxen and sheep from the pastures of each, but 
Knolles had no mind to break his strength upon stone walls, 
and so he went upon his way. 

Once at St. Meen they passed a great nunnery, girt with 
a high gray lichened wall, an oasis of peace in this desert 
of war, the black-robed nuns basking in the sun or working 
in the gardens, with the strong gentle hand of Holy Church 
shielding them ever from evil. The archers doffed caps to 
them as they passed, for the boldest and roughest dared not 
cross that line guarded by the dire ban and blight which was 
the one only force in the whole steel-ridden earth which 
could stand betwixt the weakling and the spoiler. 

The little army halted at St. Meen and cooked its midday 
meal. It had gathered into its ranks again and was about 
to start, when Knolles drew Nigel to one side. 

" Nigel," said he, " it seems to me that I have seldom set 
eyes upon a horse which hath more power and promise of 
speed than this great beast of thine." 

" It is indeed a noble steed, fair sir," said Nigel. Betwixt 
him and his young leader there had sprung up great affec- 
tion and respect since the day that they set foot in the 
Basilisk. 

" It will be the better if you stretch his limbs, for he grows 
overheavy," said the knight. " Now mark me, Nigel ! 
Yonder betwixt the ash-tree and the red rock what do you 
see on the side pf the far hill ? " 

" There is a white dot upon it. Surely it is a horse." 

" I have marked it all morning, Nigel. This horseman 
has kept ever upon our flank, spying upon us or waiting to 
make some attempt upon us. Now I should be right glad 
to have a prisoner, for it is my wish to know something 
of this country-side, and these peasants can speak neither 
French nor English. I would have you linger here in hid- 
ing when we go forward. This man will still follow us. 



240 Sir Nigel 

When he does so, yonder wood will lie betwixt you and 
him. Do you ride round it and come upon him from be- 
hind. There is broad plain upon his left, and we will cut 
him off upon the right. If your horse be indeed the swifter, 
then you cannot fail to take him." 

Nigel had already sprung down and was tightening Pom- 
mers' girth. 

" Nay, there is no need of haste, for you cannot start until 
we are two miles upon our way. And above all I pray you, 
Nigel, none of your knight-errant ways. It is this man that 
I want, him and the news that he can bring me. Think 
little of your own advancement and much of the needs of 
the army. When you get him, ride westwards upon the 
sun, and you cannot fail to find the road." 

Nigel waited with Pommers under the shadow of the 
nunnery wall, horse and man chafing with impatience, whilst 
above them six round-eyed innocent nun-faces looked down 
on this strange and disturbing vision from the outer world. 
At last the long column wound itself out of sight round a 
curve of the road, and the white dot was gone from the bare 
green flank of the hill. Nigel bowed his steel head to the 
nuns, gave his bridle a shake, and bounded off upon his wel- 
come mission. The round-eyed sisters saw yellow horse 
and twinkling man sweep round the skirt of the wood, 
caught a last glimmer of him through the tree-trunks, and 
paced slowly back to their pruning and their planting, their 
minds filled with the beauty and the terror of that outer 
world beyond the high gray lichen-mottled wall. 

Everything fell out even as Knolles had planned. As Nigel 
rounded the oak forest, there upon the farther side of it, 
with only good greensward between, was the rider upon 
the white horse. Already he was so near that Nigel could 
see him clearly, a young cavalier, proud in his bearing, clad 
in purple silk tunic with a red curling feather in his low 
black cap. He wore no armor, but his sword gleamed at 
his side. He rode easily and carelessly, as one who cares 
for no man, and his eyes were forever fixed upon the Eng- 
lish soldiers on the road. So intent was he upon them that 
he gave no thought to his own safety, and it was only when 
f,he low thunder of the great horse's hoofs broke upon his 




HORSE AND MAN CHAFING WITH IMPATIENCE 



A Squire of England 241 

ears that he turned in his saddle, looked very coolly and 
steadily at Nigel, then gave his own bridle a shake and 
darted off, swift as a hawk, toward the hills upon the left. 

Pommers had met his match that day. The white horse, 
two parts Arab, bore the lighter weight, since Nigel was clad 
in full armor. For five miles over the open neither gained 
a hundred yards upon the other. They had topped the hill 
and flew down the farther side, the stranger continually turn- 
ing in his saddle to have a look at his pursuer. There was 
no panic in his flight, but rather the amused rivalry with 
which a good horseman who is proud of his mount contends 
with one who has challenged him. Below the hill was a 
marshy plain, studded with great Druidic stones, some pros- 
trate, some erect, some bearing others across their tops like 
the huge doors of some vanished building. A path ran 
through the marsh with green rushes as a danger signal 
on either side of it. Across this path many of the huge 
stones were lying, but the white horse cleared them in its 
stride and Pommers followed close upon his heels. Then 
came a mile of soft ground where the lighter weight again 
drew to the front, but it ended in a dry upland and once 
again Nigel gained. A sunken road crossed it, but the white 
cleared it with a mighty spring, and again the yellow fol- 
lowed. Two small hills lay before them with a narrow gorge 
of deep bushes between. Nigel saw the white horse bound- 
ing chest-deep amid the underwood. 

Next instant its hind legs were high in the air, and the 
rider had been shot from its back. A howl of triumph rose 
from amidst the bushes, and a dozen wild figures armed with 
club and with spear, rushed upon the prostrate man. 

" A moi, Anglais, a moil " cried a voice, and Nigel saw 
the young rider stagger to his feet, strike round him with 
his sword, and then fall once more before the rush of his 
assailants. 

There was a comradeship among men of gentle blood and 
bearing which banded them together against all ruffianly or 
unchivalrous attack. These rude fellows were no soldiers. 
Their dress and arms, their uncouth cries and wild assault, 
marked them as banditti such men as had slain the Eng- 
lishman upon the road. Waiting in narrow gorges with a 



242 Sir Nigel 

hidden rope across the path, they watched for the lonely 
horseman 'as a fowler waits by his bird-trap, trusting that 
they could overthrow the steed and then slay the rider ere 
he had recovered from his fall. 

Such would have been the fate of the stranger, as of so 
many cavaliers before him, had Nigel not chanced to be 
close upon his heels. In an instant Pommers had burst 
through the group who struck at the prostrate man, and in 
another two of the robbers had fallen before Nigel's sword. 
A spear rang on his breastplate, but one blow shore off its 
head, and a second that of him who held it. In vain they 
thrust at the steel-girt man. His sword played round them 
like lightning, and the fierce horse ramped and swooped above 
them with pawing iron-shod hoofs and eyes of fire. With 
cries and shrieks they flew off to right and left amidst the 
bushes, springing over bowlders and darting under branches 
where no horseman could follow them. The foul crew had 
gone as swiftly and suddenly as it had come, and save for 
four ragged figures littered amongst the trampled bushes, 
no sign remaining of their passing. 

Nigel tethered Pommers to a thorn-bush and then turned 
his attention to the injured man. The white horse had re- 
gained his feet and stood whinnying gently as he looked 
down on his prostrate master. A heavy blow, half broken 
by his sword, had beaten him down and left a great raw 
bruise upon his forehead. But a stream gurgled through 
the gorge, and a capful of water dashed over his face 
brought the senses back to the injured man. He was a mere 
stripling, with the delicate features of a woman, and a pair 
of great violet-blue eyes which looked up presently with a 
puzzled stare into Nigel's face. 

" Who are you ? " he asked. " Ah yes ! I call you to mind. 
You are the young Englishman who chased me on the great 
yellow horse. By our Lady of Rocamadour whose vernicle is 
round my neck ! I could not have believed that any horse 
could have kept at the heels of Charlemagne so long. But 
I will wager you a hundred crowns, Englishman, that I 
lead you pver a five-mile course." 

" Nay," said Nigel, ff we will wait till you ean back a 

m W$ 9f rwfci! & J m 



A Squire of England 243 

the family of Loring, a squire by rank and the son of a 
knight. How are you called, young sir ? " 

" I also am a squire by rank and the son of a knight. I 
am Raoul de la Roche Pierre de Bras, whose father writes 
himself Lord of Grosbois, a free vavasor of the noble Count 
of Toulouse, with the right of fossa and of furca, the high 
justice, the middle and the low." He sat up and rubbed his 
eyes. " Englishman, you have saved my life as I would have 
saved yours, had I seen such yelping dogs set upon a man 
of blood and of coat-armor. But now I am yours, and what 
is your sweet will ? " 

" When you are fit to ride, you will come back with me 
to my people." 

" Alas ! I feared that you would say so. Had I taken 
you, Nigel that is your name, is it not ? had I taken you, 
I would not have acted thus." 

" How then would you have ordered things ? " asked 
Nigel, much taken with the frank and debonair manner of 
his captive. 

" I would not have taken advantage of such a mischance 
as has befallen me which has put me in your power. I would 
give you a sword and beat you in fair fight, so that I might 
send you to give greeting to my dear lady and show her the 
deeds which I do for her fair sake." 

" Indeed, your* words are both good and fair," said Nigel. 
" By Saint Paul ! I cannot call to mind that I have ever met 
a man who bore himself better. But since I am in my armor 
and you without, I see not how we can debate the matter." 

" Surely, gentle Nigel, you could doff your armor." 

" Then have I only my underclothes." 

" Nay, there shall be no unfairness there, for I also will 
very gladly strip to my underclothes." 

Nigel looked wistfully at the Frenchman; but he shook 
his head. " Alas ! it may not be," said he. " The last words 
that Sir Robert said to me were that I was to bring you 
to his side, for he would have speech with you. Would that 
I could do what you ask, for I also have a fair lady to whom 
I would fain send you. What use are you to me, Raoul, 
since I have gained no honor in ^he taking of you? 

13 it withypu, JIQW? ?? 



244 Sir Nigel 

The young Frenchman had risen to his feet. " Do not 
take my sword," he said. " I am yours, rescue or no rescue. 
I think now that I could mount my horse, though indeed 
my head still rings like a cracked bell." 

Nigel had lost all traces of his comrades ; but he remem- 
bered Sir Robert's words that he should ride upon the sun 
with the certainty that sooner or later he would strike upon 
the road. As they jogged slowly along over undulating hills, 
the Frenchman shook off his hurt and the two chatted mer- 
rily together. 

" I had but just come from France," said he, " and I had 
hoped to win honor in this country, for I have ever heard that 
the English are very hardy men and excellent people to fight 
with. My mules and my baggage are at Evran ; but I rode 
forth to see what I could see, and I chanced upon your army 
moving down the road, so I coasted it in the hopes of some 
profit or adventure. Then you came after me and I would 
have given all the gold goblets upon my father's table if I 
had my harness so that I could have turned upon you. I 
have promised the Countess Beatrice that I will send her 
an Englishman or two to kiss her hands." 

" One might perchance have a worse fate," said Nigel. 
" Is this fair dame your betrothed ? " 

" She is my love," answered the Frenchman. " We are 
but waiting for the Count to be slain in the wars, and then 
we mean to marry. And this lady of thine, Nigel ? I would 
that I could see her." 

" Perchance you shall, fair sir," said Nigel, " for all that 
I have seen of you fills me with desire to go further with 
you. It is in my mind that we might turn this thing to 
profit and to honor, for when Sir Robert has spoken with 
you, I am free to do with you as I will." 

" And what will you do, Nigel ? " 

" We shall surely try some small deed upon each other, 
so that either I shall see the Lady Beatrice, or you the Lady 
Mary. Nay, thank me not, for like yourself, I have come 
to this country in search of honor, and I know not where 
I may better find it than at the end of your sword-point. My 
good lord and master, Sir John Chandos, has told me many 
times that never yet did he meet French knight nor squire 



A Squire of England 245 

that he did not find great pleasure and profit from their com- 
pany, and now I very clearly see that he has spoken the 
truth." 

For an hour these two friends rode together, the French- 
man pouring forth the praises of his lady, whose glove he 
produced from one pocket, her garter from his vest, and her 
shoe from his saddle-bag. She was blond, and when he 
heard that Mary was dark, he would fain stop then and 
there to fight the question of color. He talked too of his 
great chateau at Lauta, by the head waters of the pleasant 
Garonne; of the hundred horses in the stables, the seventy 
hounds in the kennels, the fifty hawks in the mews. His 
English friend should come there when the wars were over, 
and what golden days would be theirs ! Nigel too, with his 
English coldness thawing before this young sunbeam of the 
South, found himself talking of the heather slopes of Sur- 
rey, of the forest of Woolmer, even of the sacred chambers 
of Cosford. 

But as they rode onward towards the sinking sun, 
their thoughts far away in their distant homes, their horses 
striding . together, there came that which brought their 
minds back in an instant to the perilous hillsides of 
Brittany. 

It was the long blast of a trumpet blown from somewhere 
on the farther side of a ridge toward which they were riding. 
A second long-drawn note from a distance answered it. 

" It is your camp/' said the Frenchman. 

" Nay/' said Nigel ; " we have pipes with us and a naker 
Or two, but I have heard no trumpet-call from our ranks. 
It behooves us to take heed, for we know not what may be 
before us. Ride this way, I pray you, that we may look 
over and yet be ourselves unseen." 

Some scattered bowlders crowned the height, and from 
behind them the two young Squires could see the long 
rocky valley beyond. Upon a knoll was a small square 
building with a battlement round it. Some distance from 
it towered a great dark castle, as massive as the rocks on 
which it stood, with one strong keep at the corner, and four 
long lines of machicolated walls. Above, a great banner 
flew proudly in the wind, with some device which glowed 



246 Sir Nigel 

red in the setting sun. Nigel shaded his eyes and stared 
with wrinkled brow. 

" It is not the arms of England, nor yet the lilies of 
France, nor is it the ermine of Brittany," said he. " He who 
holds this castle rights for his own hand, since his own de- 
vice flies above it. Surely it is a head gules on an argent 
field." 

" The bloody head on a silver tray ! " cried the French- 
man. " Was I not warned against him ? This is not a man, 
friend Nigel. It is a monster who wars upon English, 
French and all Christendom. Have you not heard of the 
Butcher of La Brohiniere ? " 

" Nay, I have not heard of him." 

1 " His name is accursed in France. Have I not been told 
also that he put to death this very year Gilles de St. Pol, a 
friend of the English King? " 

" Yes, in very truth it comes back to my mind now that 
I heard something of this matter in Calais before we 
started." 

" Then there he dwells, and God guard you if ever you 
pass under yonder portal, for no prisoner has ever come forth 
alive ! Since these wars began he hath been a king to him- 
self, and the plunder of eleven years lies in yonder cellars. 
How can justice come to him, when no man knows who 
owns the land ? But when we have packed you all back to 
your island, by the Blessed Mother of God, we have a heavy 
debt to pay to the man who dwells in yonder pile ! " 

But even as they watched, the trumpet-call burst forth 
once more. It came not from the castle but from the farther 
end of the valley. It was answered by a second call from 
the walls. Then in a long, straggling line there came a 
wild troop of marauders streaming homeward from some 
foray. In the van, at the head of a body of spearmen, rode 
a tall and burly man, clad in brazen armor, so that he shone 
like a golden image in the slanting rays of the sun. His hel- 
met had been loosened from his gorget and was held before 
him on his horse's neck. A great tangled beard flowed over 
his breastplate, and his hair hung down as far behind. A 
squire at his elbow bore high the banner of the bleeding 
head. Behind the spearmen were a line of heavily laden 



A Squire of England 247 

mules, and on either side of them a drove of poor country 
folk, who were being herded into the castle. Lastly came 
a second strong troop of mounted spearmen, who conducted 
a score or more of prisoners who marched together in a 
solid body. 

Nigel stared at them and then, springing on his horse, 
he urged it along the shelter of the ridge -so as to reach 
unseen a spot which was close to the castle gate. He had 
scarce taken up his new position when the cavalcade reached 
the drawbridge, and amid yells of welcome from those upon 
the wall, filed in a thin line across it. Nigel stared hard 
once more at the prisoners in the rear, and so absorbed was 
he by the sight that he had passed the rocks and was stand- 
ing sheer upon the summit. 

" By Saint Paul ! " he cried, " it must indeed be so. I see 
their russet jackets. They are English archers ! " 

As he spoke, the hindmost one, a strongly built, broad- 
shouldered man, looked round and saw the gleaming figure 
above him upon the hill, with open helmet, and the five roses 
glowing upon his breast. With a sweep of his hands he had 
thrust his guardians aside and for a moment was clear of 
the throng. 

" Squire Loring ! Squire Loring ! " he cried. " It is I, 
Aylward the archer ! It is I, Samkin Aylward ! " The next 
minute a dozen hands had seized him, his cries were muffled 
with a gag, and he was hurled, the last of the band, through 
the black and threatening archway of the gate. Then with 
a clang the two iron wings came together, the portcullis 
swung upward, and captives and captors, robbers and booty, 
were all swallowed up within the grim and silent fortress. 



XX 

HOW THE ENGLISH ATTEMPTED THE CASTLE 
OF LA BROHINIERE 

FOR some minutes Nigel remained motionless upon 
the crest of the hill, his heart like lead within him, 
and his eyes fixed upon the huge gray walls which 
contained his unhappy henchman. He was roused by a sym- 
pathetic hand upon his shoulder and the voice of his young 
prisoner in his ear. 

"Peste!" said he. "They have some of your birds in 
their cage, have they not? What tnen, my friend? Keep 
your heart high ! Is it not the chance of war, to-day to 
them, to-morrow to thee, and death at last for us all ? And 
yet I had rather they were in any hands than those of Oliver 
the Butcher." 

" By Saint Paul, we cannot surfer it ! * ' cried Nigel dis- 
tractedly. " This man 1 has come with me from my own 
home. He has stood between me and death before now. 
It goes to my very heart that he should call upon me in vain. 
I pray you, Raoul, to use your wits, for mine are all curdled 
in my head. Tell me what I should do and how I may bring 
him help." 

The Frenchman shrugged his shoulders. " As easy to get 
a lamb unscathed out of a wolves' lair as a prisoner safe from 
La Brohiniere. Nay, Nigel, whither do you go ? Have you 
indeed taken leave of your wits ? " 

The Squire had spurred his horse down the hillside and 
never halted until he was within a bowshot of the gate. 
The French prisoner followed hard behind him, with a buzz 
of reproaches and expostulations. 

" You are mad, Nigel ! " he cried. " What do you hope 
to do then? Would you carry the castle with your own 
hands ? Halt, man, halt, in the name of the Virgin ! " 

But Nigel had no plan in his head and only obeyed the 

248 



TKe Castle of La Brohinifere 249 

fevered impulse to do something to ease his thoughts. He 
paced his horse up and down, waving his spear, and shouting 
insults and challenges to the garrison. Over the high wall 
a hundred jeering faces looked down upon him. So rash 
and wild was his action that it seemed to those within to 
mean some trap, so the drawbridge was still held high and 
none ventured forth to seize him. A few long-range arrows 
pattered on the rocks, and then with a deep booming sound 
a huge stone, hurled from a mangonel, sang over the head 
of the two Squires and crushed into splinters amongst the 
bowlders behind them. The Frenchman seized Nigel's bri- 
dle and forced him farther from the gateway. 

" By the dear Virgin ! " he cried, " I care not to have those 
pebbles about my ears, yet I cannot go back alone, so it is 
very clear, my. crazy comrade, that you must come also. 
Now we are beyond their reach ! But see, my friend Nigel, 
who are those who crown the height ? " 

The sun had sunk behind the western ridge, but the glow- 
ing sky was fringed at its lower edge by a score of ruddy 
twinkling points. A body of horsemen showed hard and 
black upon the bare hill. Then they dipped down the slope 
into the valley, whilst a band of footmen followed behind. 

" They are my people," cried Nigel joyously. " Come, 
my friend, hasten, that we may take counsel what we shall 
do." 

Sir Robert Knolles rode a bowshot in front of his men, 
and his brow was as black as night. Beside him, with crest- 
fallen face, his horse bleeding, his armor dinted and soiled, 
was the hot-headed knight, Sir James Astley. A fierce dis- 
cussion raged between them. 

" I have done my devoir as best I might," said Astley. 
" Alone I had ten of them at my sword-point. I know not 
how I have lived to tell it." 

" What is your devoir to me ? Where are my thirty bow- 
men ? " cried Knolles in bitter wrath. " Ten lie dead upon 
the ground and twenty are worse than dead in yonder castle. 
And all because you must needs show all men how bold you 
are, and ride into a bushment such as a child could see. 
Alas for my own folly that ever I should have trusted such 
a one as you with the handling of men ! " 



Sir Nigel 



" By God, Sir Robert, you shall answer to me for those 
words ! " cried Astley with a choking voice. " Never has a 
man dared to speak to me as you have done this day." 

" As long as I hold the King's order I shall be master, 
and by the Lord I will hang you, James, on a near tree 
if I have further cause of offense! How now, Nigel? I 
see by yonder white horse that you at least have not failed 
me. I will speak with you anon. Percy, bring up your men, 
and let us gather round this castle, for, as I hope for my 
soul's salvation, I will not leave it until I have my archers, 
or the head of him who holds them." 

That night the English lay thick round the fortress of 
La Brohiniere so that none might come forth from it. But 
if none could come forth it was hard to see how any could 
win their way in, for it was full of men, the walls were high 
and strong, and a deep dry ditch girt it round. But the 
hatred and fear which its master had raised over the whole 
country-side could now be plainly seen, for during the night 
the brushwood men and the villagers came in from all parts 
with offers of such help as they could give for the intaking 
of the castle. Knolles set them cutting bushes and tying' 
them into fagots. When morning came he rode out before 
the wall and he held counsel with his knights and squires as 
to how he should enter in. 

" By noon," said he, " we shall have so many fagots that 
we may make our way over the ditch. Then we will beat in 
the gates and so win a footing." 

The young Frenchman had come with Nigel to the con- 
ference, and now, amid the silence which followed the lead- 
er's proposal, he asked if he might be heard. He was clad 
in the brazen armor which Nigel had taken from the Red 
Ferret. 

" It may be that it is not for me to join in your counsel," 
said he, " seeing that I am a prisoner and a Frenchman. 
But this man is the enemy of all, and we of France owe him 
a debt even as you do, since many a good Frenchman has 
died in his cellars. For this reason I crave to be heard." 

" We will hear you," said Knolles. 

" I have come from Evran yesterday," said he. " Sir 
Henry Spinnefort, Sir Peter La Roye and many other brave 



The Castle of La Brohiniere 251 

knights and squires lie there, with a good company of men, 
all of whom would very gladly join with you to destroy this 
butcher and his castle, for it is well known amongst us that 
his deeds are neither good nor fair. There are also bom- 
bards which we could drag over the hills, and so beat down 
this iron gate. If you so order it I will ride to Evran and 
bring my companions back with me." 

" Indeed, Robert," said Percy, " it is in my mind that this 
Frenchman speaks very wisely and well." 

" And when we have taken the castle what then ? " asked 
Knolles. 

" Then you could go upon your way, fair sir, and we upon 
ours. Or if it please you better you could draw together 
on yonder hill and we on this one, so that the valley lies be- 
tween us. Then if any cavalier wished to advance himself 
or to shed a vow and exalt his lady, an opening might be 
found for him. Surely it would be shame if so many brave 
men drew together and no small deed were to come of it." 

Nigel clasped his captive's hand to show his admiration 
and esteem, but Knolles shook his head. 

" Things are not ordered thus, save in the tales of the 
minstrels," said he. " I have no wish that your people at 
Evran should know our numbers or our plans. I am not 
in this land for knight errantry, but I am here to make head 
against the King's enemies. Has no one aught else to say ? " 

Percy pointed to the small outlying fortalice upon the 
knoll, on which also flew the flag of the bloody head. " This 
smaller castle, Robert, is of no great strength and cannot 
hold more than fifty men. It is built, as I conceive it, that 
no one should seize the high ground and shoot down into 
the other. Why should we not turn all our strength upon 
it, since it is the weaker of the twain ? " 

But again the young leader shook his head. " If I should 
take it," said he, " I am still no nearer to my desire, nor will 
it avail me in getting back my bowmen. It may cost a score 
of men, and what profit shall I have from it ? Had I bom- 
bards, I might place them on yonder hill, but having none 
it is of little use to me." 

" It may be," said Nigel, " that they have scant food or 
water, and so must come forth to fight us," 



25 2 Sir Nigel 

" I have made inquiry of the peasants," Knolles answered, 
" and they are of one mind that there is a well within the 
castle, and good store of food. Nay, gentlemen, there is no 
way before us save to take it by arms, and no spot where we 
can attempt it save through the great gate. Soon we will 
have so many fagots that we can cast them down into the 
ditch, and so win our way across. I have ordered them to 
cut a pine-tree on the hill and shear the branches so that 
we may beat down the gate with it. But what is now amiss, 
and why do they run forward to the castle ? " 

A buzz had risen from the soldiers in the camp, and they 
all crowded in one direction, rushing toward the castle wall. 
The knights and squires rode after them, and when in view 
of the main gate, the cause of the disturbance lay before 
them. On the tower above the portal three men were stand- 
ing in the garb of English archers, ropes round their necks 
and their hands bound behind them. Their comrades surged 
below them with cries of recognition and of pity. 

" It is Ambrose ! " cried one. " Surely it is Ambrose of 
Ingleton." 

" Yes, in truth, I see his yellow hair. And the other, him 
with the beard, it is Lockwood of Skipton. Alas for his 
wife who keeps the booth by the bridge-head of Kibble! 
I wot not who the third may be." 

" It is little Johnny Alspaye, the youngest man in the com- 
pany," cried old Wat, with the tears running down his 
cheeks, " 'Twas I who brought him from his home. Alas ! 
Alas ! Foul fare the day that ever I coaxed him from his 
mother's side that he might perish in a far land." 

There was a sudden flourish of a trumpet and the draw- 
bridge fell. Across it strode a portly man with a faded 
herald's coat. He halted warily upon the farther side and 
his voice boomed like a drum. " I would speak with your 
leader," he cried. 

Knolles rode forward. 

" Have I your knightly word that I may advance un- 
scathed with all courteous entreaty as befits a herald ? " 

Knolles nodded his head. 

The man came slowly and pompously forward. " I am 
the messenger and liege servant," said he, "of the high 



The Castle of La Brohinifere 253 

baron, Oliver de St. Yvon, Lord of La Brohiniere. He bids 
me to say that if you continue your journey and molest him 
no further he will engage upon his part to make no further 
attack upon you. As to the men whom he holds, he will 
enroll them in his own honorable service, for he has need 
of longbowmen, and has heard much of their skill. But 
if you constrain him or cause him further displeasure by 
remaining before his castle he hereby gives you warning 
that he will hang these three men over his gateway and every 
morning another three until all have been slain. This he 
has sworn upon the rood of Calvery, and as he has said so 
he will do upon jeopardy of his soul." 

Robert Knolles looked grimly at the messenger. " You 
may thank the saints that you have had my promise," said 
he, " else would I have stripped that lying tabard from thy 
back and the skin beneath it from thy bones, that thy master 
might have a fitting answer to his message. Tell him that 
I hold him and all that are within his castle as hostage for 
the lives of my men, and that should he dare to do them 
scathe he and every man that is with him shall hang upon 
his battlements. Go, and go quickly, less my patience fail." 

There was that in Knolles' cold gray eyes and in his man- 
ner of speaking those last words which sent the portly envoy 
back at a quicker gait than he had come. As he vanished 
into the gloomy arch of the gateway the drawbridge swung 
up with creak and rattle behind him. 

A few minutes later a rough-bearded fellow stepped out 
over the portal where the condemned archers stood and 
seizing the first by the shoulders he thrust him over the wall. 
A cry burst from the man's lips and a deep groan from those 
of his comrades below as he fell with a jerk which sent 
him half-way up to the parapet again, and then after dan- 
cing like a child's toy swung slowly backward and forward 
with limp limbs and twisted neck. 

The hangman turned and bowed in mock reverence to 
the spectators beneath him. He had not yet learned in a 
land of puny archers how sure and how strong is the English 
bow. Half a dozen men, old Wat amongst them, had run 
forward toward the wall. They were too late to save their 
comrades, but at least their deaths were speedily avenged. 



254 Sir Nigel 

The man was in the act of pushing off the second prisoner 
when an arrow crashed through his head, and he fell stone 
dead upon the parapet. But even in falling he had given the 
fatal thrust and a second russet figure swung beside the 
first against the dark background of the castle wall. 

There only remained the young lad, Johnny Alspaye, who 
stood shaking with fear, an abyss below him, and the voices 
of those who would hurl him over it behind. There was a 
long pause before anyone would come forth to dare those 
deadly arrows. Then a fellow, crouching double, ran for- 
ward from the shelter, keeping the young archer's body as 
a shield between him and danger. 

" Aside, John ! Aside ! " cried his comrades from below. 

The youth sprang as far as the rope would allow him, 
and slipped it half over his face in the effort. Three arrows 
flashed past his side, and two of them buried themselves 
in the body of the man behind. A howl of delight burst 
from the spectators as he dropped first upon his knees and 
then upon his face. A life for a life was no bad bargain. 

But it was only a short respite which the skill of his com- 
rades had given to the young archer. Over the, parapet 
there appeared a ball of brass, then a pair of great brazen 
shoulders, and lastly the full figure of an armored man. He 
walked to the edge and they heard his hoarse guffaw of 
laughter as the arrows clanged and clattered against his im- 
penetrable mail. He slapped his breast-plate, as he jeered at 
them. Well he knew that at the distance no dart ever sped 
by mortal hands could cleave through his plates of metal. 
So he stood, the great burly Butcher of La Brohiniere, with 
head uptossed, laughing insolently at his foes. Then with 
slow and ponderous tread he walked toward his boy victim, 
seized him by the ear, and dragged him across so that the 
rope might be straight. Seeing triat the noose had slipped 
across the face, he tried to push it down, but the mail glove 
hampering him he pulled it off, and grasped the rope above 
the lad's head with his naked hand. 

Quick as a flash old Wat's arrow had sped, and the Butcher 
sprang back with a howl of pain, his hand skewered by a 
cloth-yard shaft. As he shook it furiously at his enemies a 

jjj tausfeh With a kutal kick q| \\\% 



The Castle of La Brohinifcre 255 

metal-shod feet he hurled young Alspaye over the edge, 
looked down for a few moments at his death agonies, and 
then walked slowly from the parapet, nursing his dripping 
hand, the arrows still ringing loudly upon his back-piece as 
he went. 

The archers below, enraged at the death of their com- 
rades, leaped and howled like a pack of ravening wolves. 

" By Saint Dunstan," said Percy, looking round at their 
flushed faces, " if ever we are to carry it now is the mo- 
ment, for these men will not be stopped if hate can take them 
forward." 

" You are right, Thomas ! " cried Knolles. " Gather to- 
gether twenty men-at-arms each with his shield to cover 
him. Astley, do you place the bowmen so that 'no head 
may show at window or parapet. Nigel, I pray you to order 
the countryfolk forward with their fardels of fagots. Let the 
others bring up the lopped pine-tree which lies yonder be- 
hind the horse lines. Ten men-at-arms can bear it on the 
right, and ten on the left, having shields over their heads. 
The gate once down, let every man rush in. And God help 
the better cause ! " 

Swiftly and yet quietly the dispositions were made, for 
these were old soldiers whose daily trade was war. In lit- 
tle groups the archers formed in front of each slit or crevice 
in the walls, whilst others scanned the battlements with wary 
eyes, and sped an arrow at every face which gleamed for 
an instant above them. The garrison shot forth a shower 
of crossbow bolts and an occasional stone from their engine, 
but so deadly was the hail which rained upon them that they 
had no time to dwell upon their aim, and their discharges 
were wild and harmless. Under cover of the shafts of the 
bowmen a line of peasants ran unscathed to the edge of the 
ditch, each hurling in the bundle which he bore in his arms, 
and then hurrying back for another one. In twenty min- 
utes a broad pathway of fagots lay level with the ground 
upon one side and the gate upon the other. With the loss 
of two peasants slain by bolts and one archer crushed by a 
stone, the ditch had been filled up. All was ready for the 
Battering-ram, 

With v a shput, l^enty pfeted ww rushed forward 



256 Sir Nigel 

the pine-tree under their arms, the heavy end turned toward 
the gate. The arbalesters on the tower leaned over and 
shot into the midst of them, but could not stop their ad- 
vance. Two dropped, but the others raising their shields 
ran onward still shouting, crossed the bridge of fagots, 
and came with a thundering crash against the door. It 
splintered from base to arch, but kept its place. 

Swinging their mighty weapon, the storming party thud- 
ded and crashed upon the gate, every blow loosening and 
widening the cracks which rent it from end to end. The 
three knights, with Nigel, the Frenchman Raoul and the 
other squires, stood beside the ram, cheering on the men, 
and chanting to the rhythm of the swing with a loud " Ha ! " 
at every blow. A great stone loosened from the parapet 
roared through the air and struck Sir James Astley and an- 
other of the attackers, but Nigel and the Frenchman had 
taken their places in an instant, and the ram thudded and 
smashed with greater energy than ever. Another blow and 
another! the lower part was staving inward, but the great 
central bar still held firm. Surely another minute would 
beat it from its sockets. 

But suddenly from above there came a great deluge of 
liquid. A hogshead of it had been tilted from the battlement 
until soldiers, bridge, and ram were equally drenched in 
yellow slime. Knolles rubbed his gauntlet in it, held it to 
his visor, and smelled it. 

" Back, back ! " he cried. " Back before it is too late ! " 

There was a small barred window above their heads at 
the side of the gate. A ruddy glare shone through it, and 
then a blazing torch was tossed down upon them. In a mo- 
ment the oil had caught and the whole place was a sheet of 
flame. The fir-tree that they carried, the fagots beneath 
them, their very weapons, were all in a blaze. 

To right and left the men sprang down into the dry ditch, 
rolling with screams upon the ground in their endeavor to 
extinguish the flames. The knights and squires protected 
by their armor strove hard, stamping and slapping, to help 
those who had but leather jacks to shield their bodies. From 
above a ceaseless shower of darts and of stones were poured 
down upon them, while on the other hand the archers, seeing 



The Castle of La Brohinifere 257 

the greatness of the clanger, ran up to the edge of the ditch, 
and shot fast and true at every face which showed above the 
wall. 

Scorched, wearied and bedraggled, the remains of the 
storming party clambered out of the ditch as best they could, 
clutching at the friendly hands held down to them, and so 
limped their way back amid the taunts and howls of their 
enemies. A long pile of smoldering cinders was all that re- 
mained of their bridge, and on it lay Astley and six other 
red-hot men glowing in their armor. 

Knolles clinched his hands as he looked back at the ruin 
that was wrought, and then surveyed the group of men who 
stood or lay around him nursing their burned limbs and 
scowling up at the exultant figures who waved on the castle 
wall. Badly scorched himself, the young leader had no 
thought for his own injuries in the rage and grief which 
racked his soul. " We will build another bridge/' he cried. 
" Set the peasants binding fagots dnce more." 

But a thought had flashed through Nigel's mind. " See, 
fair sir/' said he. " The nails of yonder door are red-hot 
and the wood as white as ashes, Surely we can break our 
way through it." 

" By the Virgin, you speak truly ! " cried the French 
Squire. " If we can cfoss the ditch the gate will not stop us. 
Come, Nigel, for our fair ladies' sakes, I will race you who 
will reach it first, England or France." 

Alas for all the wise words of the good Chandos ! Alas 
for all the lessons in order and discipline learned from the 
wary Knolles. In an instant, forgetful of all things but this 
noble challenge, Nigel was running at the top of his speed 
fof the burning gate. Close at his heels was the French- 
man, blowing and gasping, as he rushed along in his brazen 
armor. Behind came a stream of howling archers and men- 
at-arms, like a flood which has broken its dam. Down they 
slipped into the ditch, rushed across it, and clambered on 
each other's ba.cks up the opposite side. Nigel, Raoul and 
txvo archers gained a foothold in front of the burning gate 
at the same moment. With blows and kicks they burst it 
to pieces, and dashed with a yell of triumph through the 
dark archway beyond. For a moment they thought wit;h 



258 'Sir Nigel 

mad rapture that the castle was carried. A dark tunnel 
lay before them, down which they rushed. But alas ! at the 
farther end it was blocked by a second gateway as strong 
as that which had been burned. In vain they beat upon it 
with their swords and axes. On each side the tunnel was 
pierced with slits, and the crossbow bolts discharged at only 
a few yards' distance crashed through armor as if it were 
cloth and laid man after man upon the stones. They raged 
and leaped before the great iron-clamped barrier, but the 
wall itself was as easy to tear down. 

It was bitter to draw back ; but it was madness to remain. 
Nigel looked round and saw that half his men were down. 
At the same moment Raoul sank with a gasp at his feet, a 
bolt driven to its socket through the links of the camail 
which guarded his neck. Some of the archers, seeing that 
certain death awaited them, were already running back to 
escape from the fatal passage. 

" By Saint Paul ! " cried Nigel hotly. " Would you leave 
our wounded where this butcher may lay his hands upon 
them? Let the archers shoot inwards and hold them back 
from the slits. .Now let each man raise one of our comrades, 
lest we leave our honor in the gate of this castle." 

With a mighty effort he had raised Raoul upon his shoul- 
ders and staggered with him to the edge of the ditch. Sev- 
eral men were waiting below where the steep bank shielded 
them from the arrows, and to them Nigel handed down his 
wounded friend, and each archer in turn did the same. 
Again and again Nigel went back until no one lay in the 
tunnel save seven who had died there. Thirteen wounded 
were laid in the shelter of the ditch, and there they must 
remain until night came to cover them. Meanwhile the bow- 
men on the farther side protected them from attack, and 
also prevented the enemy from all attempts to build up the 
outer gate. The gaping smoke-blackened arch was all that 
they could show for a loss of thirty men, but that at least 
Knolles was determined to keep. 

Burned and bruised, but unconscious of either pain or 
fatigue for the turmoil of his spirit within him, Nigel knelt 
by the Frenchman and loosened his helmet. The girlish 
face of the young Squire was wtut e as chalk, and the 



The Castle of La Brohiniere 259 

of death was gathering over his violet eyes, but a faint smile 
played round his lips as he looked up at his English comrade. 

" I shall never see Beatrice again," he whispered. " I 
pray you, Nigel, that when there is a truce you will journey 
as far as my father's chateau and tell him how his son died. 
Young Gaston will rejoice, for to him come the land and 
the coat, the war-cry and the profit. See them, Nigel, and 
tell them that I was as forward as the others." 

" Indeed Raoul, no man could have carried himself with 
more honor or won more worship than you have done this 
day. I will do your behest when the time comes." 

" Surely you are happy, Nigel," the dying Squire mur- 
mured, " for this day has given you one more deed which 
you may lay at the feet of your lady-love." 

" It might have been so had we carried the gate," Nigel 
answered sadly ; " but by Saint Paul ! I cannot count it a 
deed where I have come back with my purpose unfulfilled. 
But this is no time, Raoul, to talk of my small affairs. If 
we take the castle and I bear a good part in it, then per- 
chance all this may indeed avail." 

The Frenchman sat up with that strange energy which 
comes often as the harbinger of death. " You will win your 
Lady Mary, Nigel, and your great deeds will be not three 
but a score, so that in all Christendom there shall be no man 
of blood and coat-armor who has not heard your name and 
your fame. This I tell you I, Raoul de la Roche Pierre de 
Bras, dying upon the field of honor. And now kiss me, 
sweet friend, and lay me back, for the mists close round me 
and I am gone ! " 

With tender hands the Squire lowered his comrade's 
head, but even as he did so there came a choking rush of 
blood, and the soul had passed. So died a gallant cavalier 
of France, and Nigel as he knelt in the ditch beside him 
prayed that his own end might be as noble and as debonair. 



XXI 

HOW THE SECOND MESSENGER WENT 
TO COSFORD 

UNDER cover of night the wounded men were lifted 
from the ditch and carried back, whilst pickets of 
archers were advanced to the very gate so that 
none should rebuild it. Nigel, sick at heart over his own 
failure, the death of his prisoner and his fears for Aylward, 
crept back into the camp, but his cup was not yet full, for 
Knolles was waiting for him with a tongue which cut like 
a whip-lash. Who was he, a raw squire, that he should lead 
an attack without orders? See what his crazy knight er- 
rantry had brought about. Twenty men had been destroyed 
by it and nothing gained. Their blood was on his head. 
Chandos should hear of his conduct. He should be sent 
back to England when the castle had fallen. 

Such were the bitter words of Knolles, the more bitter 
because Nigel felt in his heart that he had indeed done 
wrong, and that Chandos would have said the same though, 
perchance, in kinder words. He listened in silent respect, 
as his duty was, and then having saluted his leader he with- 
drew apart, threw himself down amongst the bushes, and 
wept the hottest tears of his life, sobbing bitterly with his 
face between his hands. He had striven hard, and yet 
everything had gone wrong with him. He was bruised, 
burned and aching from head to foot. Yet so high is the 
spirit above the body that all was nothing compared to the 
sorrow and shame which racked his soul. 

But a little thing changed the current of his thoughts and 
brought some peace to his mind. He had slipped off his 
mail gauntlets, and as he did so his fingers lighted upon the 
tiny bangle which Mary had fastened there when they stood 
together upon St. Catharine's Hill on the Guildford Road. 
He remembered the motto curiously worked in filigree of 



The Second Messenger to Cosford 261 

gold. It ran : " Fais ce que dois, adviegne que pourra 
c'est conimande an chevalier." 

The words rang in his weary brain. He had done what 
seemed right, come what might. It had gone awry, it is 
true ; but all things human may do that. If he had carried 
the castle, he felt that Knolles would have forgiven and for- 
gotten all else. If he had not carried it, it was no fault of 
his. No man could have done more. If Mary could see 
she would surely have approved. Dropping into sleep, he 
saw her dark face, shining with pride and with pity, stoop- 
ing over him as he lay. She stretched out her hand in his 
dream and touched him on the shoulder. He sprang up and 
rubbed his eyes, for fact had woven itself into dream in the 
strange way that it does, and some one was indeed leaning 
over him in the gloom, and shaking him from his slumbers. 
But the gentle voice and soft touch of the Lady Mary had 
changed suddenly to the harsh accents and rough grip of 
Black Simon, the fierce Norfolk man-at-arms. 

" Surely you are the Squire Loring," he said, peering 
close to his face in the darkness. 

"I am he. What then?" 

" I have searched through the camp for you, but when 
I saw the great horse tethered near these bushes, I thought 
you would be found hard by. I would have a word with 
you." 

" Speak on." 

" This man Aylward the bowman was my friend, and it is 
the nature that God has given me to love my friends even 
as I hate my foes. He is also thy servant, and it has seemed 
to me that you love him also." 

" I have good cause so to do." 

" Then you and I, Squire Loring, have more reason to 
strive on his behalf than any of these others, who think more 
of taking the castle than of saving those who are captives 
within. Do you not see that such a man as this robber lord 
would, when all else had failed him, most surely cut trie 
throats of his prisoners at the last instant before the castle 
fell, knowing well that come what might he would have 
short shrift himself ? Is that not certain ? " 

" By Saint Paul ! I had not thought of it." 



262 Sir Nigel 

" I was with you, hammering at the inner gate/* said Si- 
mon, " and yet once when I thought that it was giving way 
I said in my heart : ' Good-by, Samkin ! I shall never see 
you more.' This Baron has gall in his soul, even as I have 
myself, and do you think that I would give up my prisoners 
alive, if I were constrained so to do ? No, no ; had we won 
our way this day it would have been the death-stroke for 
them all." 

" It may be that you are right, Simon," said Nigel, " and 
the thought of it should assuage our grief. But if we can- 
not save them by taking the castle, then surely they are lost 
indeed." 

" It may be so, or it may not," Simon answered slowly. 
" It is in my mind that if the castle were taken very sud- 
denly, and in such a fashion that they could not foresee it, 
then perchance we might get the prisoners before they could 
do them scathe." 

Nigel bent forward eagerly, his hand on the soldier's arm. 

" You have some plan in your mind, Simon. Tell me 
what it is." 

" I had wished to tell Sir Robert, but he is preparing the 
assault for to-morrow and will not be turned from his pur- 
pose. I have indeed a plan, but whether it be good or not 
I cannot say until I have tried it. But first I will tell you 
what put it into my thoughts. Know then that this morn- 
ing when I was in yonder ditch I marked one of their 
men upon the wall. He was a big man with a white face, 
red hair and a touch of Saint Anthony's fire upon the 
cheek." 

" But what has this to do with Aylward ? " 

" I will show you. This evening after the assault I 
chanced to walk with some of my fellows, round yonder 
small fort upon the knoll to see if we could spy a weak spot 
in it. Some of them came to the wall to curse us, and 
among them whom should I see but a big man with a white 
face, red hair and a touch of Anthony's fire upon his cheek ? 
What make you of that, Squire Nigel ? " 

" That this man had crossed from the castle to the fort." 

" In good sooth, it must indeed be so. There are not 
two such ken-speckled men in the world. But if he crossed 



The Second Messenger to Cosford 263 

from the castle to the fort, it was not above the ground, for 
our own people were between." 

" By Saint Paul ! I see your meaning ! " cried Nigel. " It 
is in your mind that there is a passage under the earth from 
one to the other." 

" I am well sure of it." 

" Then if we should take the small fort we may pass down 
this tunnel, and so carry the great castle also." 

" Such a thing might happen," said Simon, " and yet it 
is dangerous also, for surely those in the castle would hear 
our assault upon the fort and so be warned to bar the pas- 
sage against us, and to slay the prisoners before we could 
come." 

" What then is your rede ? " 

" Could we find where the tunnel lay, Squire Nigel, I 
know not what is to prevent us from digging down upon it 
and breaking into it so that both fort and castle are at our 
mercy before either knows that we are there." 

Nigel clapped his hands with joy. " 'Fore God ! " he 
cried. " It is a most noble plan ! But alas ! Simon, I see not 
how we can tell the course of this passage or where we should 

dig." 

" I have peasants yonder with spades," said Simon. 
" There are two of my friends, Harding of Barnstable and 
West-country John who are waiting for us with their gear. 
If you will come to lead us, Squire Nigel, we are ready to 
venture our bodies in the attempt." 

What would Knolles say in case they failed ? The thought 
flashed through Nigel's mind, but another came swiftly 
behind it. He would not venture further unless he found 
hopes of success. And if he did venture further he would 
put his life upon it. Giving that, he made amends for all 
errors. And if on the other hand success crowned their 
efforts, then Knolles would forgive his failure at the gate- 
way. A minute later, every doubt banished from his mind, 
he was making his way through the darkness under the guid- 
ance of Black Simon. 

Outside the camp the two other men-at-arms were waiting 
for them, and the four advanced together. Presently a lit- 
tle group of figures loomed up in the darkness. It was a 



264 Sir Nigel 



cloudy night, and a thin rain was falling which obscured 
both the castle and the fort ; but a stone had been placed by 
Simon in the daytime which assured that they were between 
the two. 

" Is blind Andreas there ? " asked Simon. 

!< Yes, kind sir, I am here," said a voice. 

" This man," said Simon, " was once rich and of good 
repute, but he was beggared by this robber lord, who after- 
wards put out his eyes so that he has lived for many years 
in darkness at the charity of others." 

" How can he help us in our enterprise if he be indeed 
blind ? " asked Nigel. 

" It is for that very reason, fair lord, that he can be of 
greater service than any other man," Simon answered ; " for 
it often happens that when a man has lost a sense the good 
God will strengthen those that remain. Hence it is that An- 
dreas has such ears that he can hear the sap in the trees 
or the cheep of the mouse in its burrow. He has come to 
help us to find the tunnel." 

" And I have found it," said the blind man proudly. 
" Here I have placed my staff upon the line of it. Twice 
as I lay there with my ear to the ground I have heard foot- 
steps pass beneath me." 

f< I trust you make no mistake, old man," said Nigel. 

For answer the blind man raised his staff and smote twice 
upon the ground, once to the right and once to the left. The 
one gave a dull thud, the other a hollow boom. 

" Can you not hear that ? " he asked. " Will you ask me 
now if I make a mistake ? " 

( Indeed, we are much beholden to you \ " cried Nigel. 
" Let the peasants dig then, and as silently as they may. 
Do you keep your ear upon the ground, Andreas, so that 
if anyone pass beneath us we shall be warned." 

So, amid the driving rain, the little group toiled in the 
darkness. The blind man lay silent, flat upon his face, and 
twice they heard his warning hiss and stopped their work, 
whilst some one passed beneath. In an hour they had dug 
down to a stone arch which was clearly the outer side of 
the tunnel roof. Here was a sad obstacle, for it might take 
long to loosen a stone, and if their work was not done by 



The Second Messenger to Cosford 265 

the break of day then their enterprise was indeed hopeless. 
They loosened the mortar with a dagger, and at last dis- 
lodged one small stone which enabled them to get at the 
others. Presently a dark hole blacker than the night around 
them yawned at their feet, and their swords could touch no 
bottom to it. They had opened the tunnel. 

" I would fain enter it first," said Nigel. " I pray you 
to lower me down." They held him to the full length of their 
arms and then letting him drop they heard him land safely 
beneath them. An instant later the blind man started up 
with a low cry of alarm. 

" I hear steps coming,"' said he. " They are far off, but 
they draw nearer." 

Simon thrust his head and neck down the hole. " Squire 
Nigel," he whispered, " can you hear me? " 

" I can hear you, Simon." 

" Andreas says that some one comes." 

" Then cover over the hole," came the answer. " Quick, 
I pray you, cover it over ! " 

A mantle was stretched across it, so that no glimmer of 
light should warn the new-comer. The fear was that he 
might have heard the sound of Nigel's descent. But soon 
it was clear that he had not done so, for Andreas announced 
that he was still advancing. Presently Nigel could hear the 
distant thud of his feet. If he bore a lantern all was lost. 
But no gleam of light appeared in the black tunnel, and still 
the footsteps drew nearer. 

Nigel breathed a prayer of thanks to all his guardian 
saints as he crouched close to the slimy wall and waited 
breathless, his dagger in his hand. Nearer yet and nearer 
came the steps. He could hear the stranger's coarse breath- 
ing in the darkness. Then as he brushed past Nigel bounded 
upon him with a tiger spring. There was one gasp of as- 
tonishment, and not a sound more, for the Squire's grip 
was on the man's throat and his body was pinned motionless 
against the wall. 

" Simon ! Simon ! " cried Nigel loudly. 

The mantle was moved from the hole. 

" Have you a cord ? Or your belts linked together may 



2 66 Sir Nigel 

One of the peasants had a rope, and Nigel soon felt it 
dangling against his hand. He listened and there was no 
sound in the passage. For an instant he released his cap- 
tive's throat. A torrent of prayers and entreaties came 
forth. The man was shaking like a leaf in the wind. 
Nigel pressed the point of his dagger against his face and 
dared him to open his lips. Then he slipped the rope be- 
neath his arms and tied it. 

" Pull him up ! " he whispered, and for an instant the gray 
glimmer above him was obscured. 

" We have him, fair sir," said Simon. 

" Then drop me the rope and hold it fast." 

A moment later Nigel stood among the group of men who 
had gathered round their captive. It was too dark to see 
him, and they dare not strike flint and steel. 

Simon passed his hand roughly over him and felt a fat 
clean-shaven face, and a cloth gabardine which hung to the 
ankles. " Who are you ? " he whispered. " Speak the truth 
and speak it low, if you would ever speak again." 

The man's teeth chattered in his head with cold and fright. 
" I speak no English," he murmured. 

" French, then," said Nigel. 

" I am a holy priest of God. You court the ban of holy 
Church when you lay hands upon me. I pray you let me go 
upon my way, for there are those whom I would shrive and 
housel. If they should die in sin, their damnation is upon 
you." 

" How are you called then ? " 

" I am Dom Peter de Cervolles." 

" De Cervolles, the arch-priest, he who heated the brazier 
when they burned out my eyes," cried old Andreas. " Of 
all the devils in hell there is none fouler than this one. 
Friends, friends, if I have done aught for you this night, I 
ask but one reward, that ye let me have my will of this 
man." 

But Nigel pushed the old man back. " There is no time 
for this," he said. " Now hark you, priest if priest indeed 
you be your gown and tonsure will not save you if you 
play us false, for we are here of a set purpose and we will 
go forward with it, come what may. Answer me and answer 



The Second Messenger to Cosford 267 

me truly or it will be an ill night for you. In what part of 
the Castle does this tunnel enter ? " 

' In the lower cellar." 

'What is at the end?" 

' An oaken door." 

'Is it barred?" 

' Yes, it is barred." 

' How would you have entered ? " 

' I would have given the password." 

' Who then would have opened ? " 

' There is a guard within." 

1 And beyond him ? " 

' Beyond him are the prison cells and the jailers." 

' Who else would be afoot? " 

' No one save a guard at the gate and another on the 
battlement." 

" What then is the password ? " 
The man was silent. 

" The password, fellow ! " 

The cold points of. two daggers pricked his throat; but 
still he would not speak. 

"Where is the blind man?" asked Nigel. "Here, An- 
dreas, you can have him and do what you will with him." 

" Nay, nay," the priest whimpered. " Keep him off me. 
Save me from blind Andreas ! I will tell you everything." 

" The password then, this instant? " 

"It is 'Benedicite!''- 

" We have the password, Simon," cried Nigel. " Come 
then, let us on to the farther end. These peasants will guard 
the priest, and they will remain here lest we wish to send a 
message." 

" Nay, fair sir, it is in my mind that we can do better," 
said Simon. " Let us take the priest with us, so that he 
who is within may know his voice." 

" It is well thought of," said Nigel, " and first let us pray 
together, for indeed this night may well be our last." 

He and the three men-at-arms knelt in the rain and sent 
up their simple orisons, Simon still clutching tight to his 
prisoner's wrist. 

The priest fumbled in his breast and drew something 



268 Sir Nigel 

forth. " It is the heart of the blessed confessor Saint Eno- 
gat," said he. " It may be that it will ease and assoil your 
souls if you would wish to handle it." 

The four Englishmen passed the flat silver case from hand 
to hand, each pressing his lips devoutly upon it. Then they 
rose to their feet. Nigel was the first to lower himself down 
the hole; then Simon; then the priest, who was instantly 
seized by the other two. The men-at-arms followed them. 
They had scarcely moved away from the hole when Nigel 
stopped. 

" Surely some one else came after us/' said he. 

They listened, but no whisper or rustle came from behind 
them. For a minute they paused and then resumed their 
journey through the dark. It seemed a long, long way, 
though in truth it was but a few hundred yards before they 
came to a door with a glimmer of yellow light around it, 
which barred their passage. Nigel struck upon it with his 
hand. 

There was the rasping of a bolt and then a loud voice: 
"Is that you, priest?" 

" Yes, it is I," said the prisoner in a quavering voice. 
" Open, Arnold ! " 

The voice was enough. There was no question of pass- 
words. The door swung inward, and in an instant the jani- 
tor was cut down by Nigel and Simon. So sudden and so 
fierce was the attack that save for the thud of his body no 
sound was heard. A flood of light burst outward into the 
passage, and the Englishmen stood with blinking eyes in 
its glare. 

In front of them lay a stone-flagged corridor, across 
which lay the dead body of the janitor. 'It had doors on 
either side of it, and another grated door at the farther end. 
A strange hubbub, a kind of low droning and whining filled 
the air. The four men were standing listening, full of won- 
der as to what this might mean, when a sharp cry came from 
behind them. The priest lay in a shapeless heap upon the 
ground, and the blood was rushing from his gaping throat. 
Down the passage, a black shadow in the yellow light, there 
fled a crouching man, who clattered with a stick as he 
went. 



The Second Messenger to Cosford 269 

" It is Andreas/' cried West-country Will. " He has 
slain him." 

" Then it was he that I heard behind us," said Nigel. 
"Doubtless he was at our very heels in the darkness. I 
fear that the priest's cry has been heard." 

" Nay," said Simon, " there are so many cries that one 
more may well pass. Let us take this lamp from the wall 
and see what sort of devil's den we have around us." 

They opened the door upon the right, and so horrible 
a smell issued from it that they were driven back from it. 
The lamp which Simon held forward showed a monkey- 
like creature mowing and grimacing in the corner, man or 
woman none could tell, but driven crazy by loneliness and 
horror. In the other cell was a gray-bearded man fettered 
to the wall, looking blankly before him, a body without a 
soul, yet with life still in him, for his dull eyes turned slowly 
in their direction. But it was from behind the central door 
at the end of the passage that the chorus of sad cries came 
which filled the air. 

" Simon," said Nigel, " before we go farther we will take 
this outer door from its hinges. With it we will block this 
passage so that at the worst we may hold our ground here 
until help comes. Do you back to the camp as fast as your 
feet can bear you. The peasants will draw you upward 
through the hole. Give my greetings to Sir Robert and tell 
him that the castle is taken without fail if he comes this way 
with fifty men. Say that we have made a lodgment within 
the walls. And tell him also, Simon, that I would counsel 
him to make a stir before the gateway so that the guard 
may be held there whilst we make good our footing behind 
them. Go, good Simon, and lose not a moment ! " 

But the man-at-arms shook his head. " It is I who have 
brought you here, fair sir, and here I bide through fair and 
foul. But you speak wisely and well, for Sir Robert should 
indeed be told what is going forward now that we have gone 
so far. Harding, do you go with all speed and bear the 
gentle Nigel's message." 

Reluctantly the man-at-arms sped upon his errand. They 
could hear the racing of his feet and the low jingle of his 
harness until they died away in the tunnel. Then the three 



270 Sir Nigel 

companions approached the door at the end. It was their 
intention to wait where they were until help should come, 
but suddenly amid the babel of cries within there broke forth 
an English voice, shouting in torment. 

" My God ! " it cried, " I pray you, comrades, for a cup 
of water, as you hope for Christ's mercy ! " 

A shout of laughter and the thud of a heavy blow followed 
the appeal. 

All the hot blood rushed to Nigel's head at the sound, 
buzzing in his ears and throbbing in his temples. There 
are times when the fiery heart of a man must overbear the 
cold brain of a soldier. With one bound he was at the door, 
with another he was through it, the men-at-arms at his heels. 
So strange was the scene before them that for an instant all 
three stood motionless with horror and surprise. 

It was a great vaulted chamber, brightly lit by many 
torches. At the farther end roared a great fire. In front 
of it three naked men were chained to posts in such a way 
that flinch as they might they could never get beyond the 
range of its scorching heat. Yet they were so far from it 
that no actual burn would be inflicted if they could but 
keep turning and shifting so as continually to present some 
fresh portion of their flesh to the flames. Hence they danced 
and whirled in front of the fire, tossing ceaselessly this way 
and that within the compass of their chains, wearied to 
death, their protruding tongues cracked and blackened with 
thirst, but unable for one instant to rest from their writh- 
ings and contortions. 

Even stranger was the sight at each side of the room, 
whence came that chorus of groans which had first struck 
upon the ears of Nigel and his companions. A line of great 
hogsheads were placed alongside the walls, and within each 
sat a man, his head protruding from the top. As they moved 
within there was a constant splashing and washing of water. 
The white wan faces all turned together as the door flew 
open, and a cry of amazement and of hope took the place 
of those long-drawn moans of despair. 

At the same instant two fellows clad in black, who had 
been seated with a flagon of wine between them at a table 
the fire, sprang wildly to their feet, staring witji 



The Second Messenger to Cosford 271 

amazement at this sudden inrush. That instant of delay 
deprived them of their last chance of safety. Midway down 
the room was a flight of stone steps which led to the main 
door. 

Swift as a wildcat Nigel bounded toward it and gained 
the steps a stride or two before the jailers. They turned 
and made for the other which led to the passage, but Simon 
and his comrades were nearer to it than they. Two sweep- 
ing blows, two dagger thrusts into writhing figures, and the 
ruffians who worked the will of the Butcher lay dead upon 
the floor of their slaughter-house. 

Oh, the buzz of joy and of prayer from all those white 
lips! Oh, the light of returning hope in all those sunken 
weary eyes ! One wild shout would have gone up had 
not Nigel's outstretched hands and warning voice hushed 
them to silence. 

He opened the door behind him. A curving newel stair- 
case wound upward into the darkness. He listened, but no 
sound came down. There was a key in the outer lock of 
the iron door. He whipped it out and turned it on the inner 
side. The ground that they had gained was safe. Now they 
could turn to the relief of these poor fellows beside them. 
A few strong blows struck off the irons and freed the three 
dancers before the fire. With a husky croak of joy, they 
rushed across to their comrades' water-barrels, plunged 
their heads in like horses, and drank and drank and drank. 
Then in turn the poor shivering wretches were taken out 
of the barrels, their skins bleached and wrinkled with long 
soaking. Their bonds were tgrn from them; but, cramped 
and fixed, their limbs refused to act, and they tumbled and 
twisted upon the floor in their efforts to reach Nigel and 
to kiss his hand. 

In a corner lay Aylward, dripping from his barrel and 
exhausted with cold and hunger. Nigel ran to his side and 
raised his head. The jug of wine from which the two jailers 
had drunk still stood upon their table. The Squire placed 
it to the archer's lips and he took a hearty pull at it. 

" How is it with you now, Aylward ? " 

" Better, Squire, better, but may I never touch water 
as long as I live ! A^5 ! poor Dicon has gone, 



272 Sir Nigel 

Stephen also the life chilled out of them. The cold is in 
the very marrow of my bones. I pray you, let me lean upon 
your arm as far as the fire, that I may warm the frozen 
blood and set it running in my veins once more." 

A strange sight it was to see these twenty naked men 
crouching in a half-circle round the fire with their trembling 
hands extended to the blaze. Soon their tongues at least 
were thawed, and they poured out the story of their troubles 
with many a prayer and ejaculation to the saints for their 
safe delivery. No food had crossed their lips since they had 
been taken. The Butcher had commanded them to join his 
garrison and to shoot upon their comrades from the wall. 
When they refused he had set aside three of them for 
execution. 

The others had been dragged to the cellar, whither the 
leering tyrant had followed them. Only one question he had 
asked them, whether they were of a hot-blooded nature or 
of a cold. Blows were showered upon them until they an- 
swered. Three had said cold, and had been condemned to 
the torment of the fire. The rest who had said hot were 
delivered up to the torture of the water-cask. Every few 
hours this man or fiend had come down to exult over their 
sufferings and to ask them whether they were ready yet 
to enter his service. Three had consented and were gone. 
But the others had all of them stood firm, two of them even 
to their death. 

Such was the tale to which Nigel and his comrades lis- 
tened whilst they waited impatiently for the corning of 
Knolles and his men. Many an anxious look did they cast 
down the black tunnel, but no glimmer of light and no clash 
of steel came from its depths. Suddenly, however, a loud 
and measured sound broke upon their ears. It was a dull 
metallic clang, ponderous and slow, growing louder and 
ever louder the tread of an armored man. The poor 
wretches round the fire, all unnerved by hunger and suffer- 
ing, huddled together with wan, scared faces, their eyes 
fixed in terror on the door. 

" It is he ! " they whispered. " It is the Butcher himself ! " 

Nigel had darted to the door and listened intently. There 

were no footfalls save those of one man. Once sure of that, 



The Second Messenger to Cosford 273 

he softly turned the key in the lock. At the same instant 
there came a bull's bellow from without. 

" Ives ! Bertrand ! " cried the voice. " Can you not hear 
me coming, you drunken varlets ? You shall cool your own 
heads in the water-casks, you lazy rascals ! What, not even 
now ! Open, you dogs. Open, I say ! " 

He had thrust down the latch, and with a kick he flung 
the door wide and rushed inward. For an instant he stood 
motionless, a statue of dull yellow metal, his eyes fixed upon 
the empty casks and the huddle of naked men. Then with 
the roar of a trapped lion, he turned, but the door had 
slammed behind him, and Black Simon, with grim figure 
and sardonic face, stood between. 

The Butcher looked round him helplessly, for he was un- 
armed save for his dagger. Then his eyes fell upon Nigel's 
roses. 

" You are a gentleman of coat-armor," he cried. " I sur- 
render myself to you." 

" I will not take your surrender, you black villain," said 
Nigel. " Draw and defend yourself. Simon, give him your 
sword." 

" Nay, this is madness," said the blunt man-at-arms. 
"Why should I give the wasp a sting?" 

" Give it him, I say. I cannot kill him in cold blood." 

" But I can ! " yelled Aylward, who had crept up from the 
fire. " Come, comrades ! By these ten finger-bones ! has he 
not taught us how cold blood should be warmed ? " 

Like a pack of wolves they were on him, and he clanged 
upon the floor with a dozen frenzied naked figures clutch- 
ing and clinging above him. In vain Nigel tried to pull 
them off. They were mad with rage, these tortured starv- 
ing men, their eyes fixed and glaring, their hair on end, 
their teeth gnashing with fury, while they tore at the howl- 
ing, writhing man. Then with a rattle and clatter they 
pulled him across the room by his two ankles and dragged 
him into the fire. 

Nigel shuddered and turned away his eyes as he saw the 
brazen figure roll out and stagger to his knees, only to be 
hurled once more into the heart of the blaze. His prisoners 
screamed with joy and clapped their hands as they pushed 



274 Sir Nigel 

him back with their feet until the armor was too hot for 
them to touch. Then at last he lay still and glowed darkly 
red, whilst the naked men danced in a wild half-circle round 
the fire. 

But now at last the supports had come. Lights flashed 
and armor gleamed down the tunnel. The cellar filled with 
armed men, while from above came the cries and turmoil 
of the feigned assault upon the gate. Led by Knolles and 
Nigel, the storming party rushed upward and seized the 
courtyard. The guard of the gate taken in the rear threw 
down their weapons and cried for mercy. The gate was 
thrown open and the assailants rushed in, with hundreds of 
furious peasants at their heels. Some of the robbers died 
in hot blood, many in cold ; but all died, for Knolles had 
vowed to give no quarter. Day was just breaking when the 
last fugitive had been hunted out and slain. From all sides 
came the yells and whoops of the soldiers with the rending 
and riving of doors as they burst into the store-rooms and 
treasure-chambers. There was a joyous scramble amongst 
them, for the plunder of eleven years, gold and jewels, satins 
and velvets, rich plate and noble hangings were all to be had 
for the taking. 

The rescued prisoners, their hunger appeased and their 
clothes restored, led the search for booty. Nigel, leaning 
on his sword by the gateway, saw Aylward totter past, a 
huge bundle under each arm, another slung over his back 
and a smaller packet hanging from his mouth. He dropped 
it for a moment as he passed his young master. 

" By these ten finger-bones ! I am right glad that I came 
to the war, and no man could ask for a more goodly life," 
said he. " I have a present here for every girl in Tilford, 
and my father need never fear the frown of the sacrist of 
Waverley again. But how of you, Squire Loring? It stand- 
eth not aright that we should gather the harvest whilst you, 
who sowed it, go forth empty-handed. Come, gentle sir, 
take these things that I have gathered, and I will go back 
and find more." 

But Nigel smiled and shook his head. ''' You have gained 
what your heart desired, and perchance I have done so also," 
said he- 



The Second Messenger to Cosford 275 

An instant later Knolles strode up to him with outstretched 
hand. " I ask your pardon, Nigel," said he. " I have spoken 
too hotly in my wrath." 

" Nay, fair sir, I was at fault." 

" If we stand here now within this castle, it is to you 
that I owe it. The King shall know of it, and Chandos also. 
Can I do aught else, Nigel, to prove to you the high esteem 
in which I hold you ? " 

The Squire flushed with pleasure. " Do you send a mes- 
senger home to England, fair sir, with news of these 
doings ? " 

" Surely, I must do so. But do not tell me, Nigel, that 
you would be that messenger. Ask me some other favor, 
for indeed I cannot let you go." 

" Now God forbid ! " cried Nigel. " By Saint Paul ! I 
would not be so caitiff and so thrall as to leave you, when 
some small deed might still be done. But I would fain send 
a message by your messenger." 

" To whom?" 

" It is to the Lady Mary, daughter of old Sir John Buttes- 
thorn who dwells near Guildford." 

" But you will write the message, Nigel. Such greetings 
as a cavalier sends to his lady-love should be under seal." 

" Nay, he can carry my message by word of mouth." 

" Then I shall tell him for he goes this morning. What 
message, then, shall he say to the lady ? " 

" He will give her my very humble greeting, and he will 
say to her that for the second time Saint Catharine has been 
our friend." 



XXII 

HOW ROBERT OF BEAUMANOIR CAME 
TO PLOERMEL 

SIR ROBERT KNOLLES and his men passed onward 
that day, looking back many a time to see the two 
dark columns of smoke, one thicker and one more 
slender, which arose from the castle and from the fort of 
La Brohiniere. There was not an archer nor a man-at-arms 
who did not bear a great bundle of spoil upon his back, and 
Knolles frowned darkly as he looked upon them. Gladly 
would he have thrown it all down by the roadside, but he 
had tried such matters before, and he knew that it was as 
safe to tear a half-gnawed bone from a bear as their blood- 
won plunder from such men as these. In any case it was 
but two days' march to Ploermel, where he hoped to bring 
his journey to an end. 

That night they camped at Mauron, where a small Eng- 
lish and Breton garrison held the castle. Right glad were 
the bowmen to see some of their own countrymen once 
more, and they spent the night over wine and dice, a crowd 
of Breton girls assisting, so that next morning their bundles 
were much lighter, and most of the plunder of La Brohi- 
niere was left with the men and women of Mauron. Next 
day their march lay with a fair sluggish river upon their 
right, and a great rolling forest upon their left which cov- 
ered the whole country. At last toward evening the towers 
of Ploermel rose before them and they saw against a dark- 
ening sky the Red Cross of England waving in the wind. 
So blue was the river Due which skirted the road, and so 
green its banks, that they might indeed have been back 
beside their own homely streams, the Oxford Thames or 
the Midland Trent, but ever as the darkness deepened there 
came in wild gusts the howling of wolves from the forest 
to remind them that they were in a land of war. So busy 

276 



Robert of Beaumanoir 277 

had men been for many years in hunting one another that 
the beasts of the chase had grown to a monstrous degree, 
until the streets of the towns were no longer safe from the 
wild inroads of the fierce creatures, the wolves and the bears, 
who swarmed around them. 

It was nightfall when the little army entered the outer 
gate of the Castle of Ploermel and encamped in the broad 
Bailey yard. Ploermel was at that time the center of Brit- 
ish power in Mid-&rittany, as Hennebon was in the West, 
and it was held by a garrison of five hundred men under 
an old soldier, Richard of Bambro', a rugged Northum- 
brian, trained in that great school of warriors, the border 
wars. He who had ridden the marches of the most troubled 
frontier in Europe, and served his time against the Liddles- 
dale and Nithsdale raiders was hardened for a life in the 
field. 

Of late, however, Bambro had been unable to undertake 
any enterprise, for his reinforcements had failed him, and 
amid his following he had but three English knights and 
seventy men. The rest were a mixed crew of Bretons, 
Hainaulters and a few German mercenary soldiers, brave 
men individually, as those of that stock have ever been, but 
lacking interest in the cause, and bound together by no com- 
mon tie of blood or tradition. 

On the other hand, the surrounding castles, and especially 
that of Josselin, were held by strong forces of enthusiastic 
Bretons, inflamed by a common patriotism, and full of war- 
like ardor. Robert of Beaumanoir, the fierce seneschal of 
the house of Rohan, pushed constant forays and excursions 
against Ploermel so that town and castle were both in daily 
dread of being surrounded and besieged. Several small 
parties of the English faction had been cut off and slain to 
a man, and so straitened were the others that it was difficult 
for them to gather provisions from the country round. 

Such was the state of Bambro's garrison when on that 
March evening Knolles and his men streamed into the 
bailey-yard of his Castle. 

In the glare of the torches at the inner gate Bambro was 
waiting to receive them, a dry, hard, wizened man, small 
and fierce, with beady black eyes and quick furtive ways. 



278 Sir Nigel 

Beside him, a strange contrast, stood his Squire, Croquart, a 
German, whose name and fame as a man-at-arms were wide- 
spread, though like Robert Knolles himself he had begun 
as a humble page. He was a very tall man, with an enor- 
mous spread of shoulders, and a pair of huge hands with 
which he could crack a horse-shoe. He was slow and le- 
thargic, save in moments of excitement, and his calm blond 
face, his dreamy blue eyes and his long fair hair gave him 
so gentle an appearance that none save those who had seen 
him in his berserk mood, raging, an iron giant, in the fore- 
front of the battle, could ever guess how terrible a warrior 
he might be. Little knight and huge squire stood together 
under the arch of the donjon and gave welcome to the new- 
comers, whilst a swarm of soldiers crowded round to em- 
brace their comrades and to lead them off where they might 
feed and make merry together. 

Supper had been set in the hall of Ploermel wherein the 
knights and squires assembled. Bambro and Croquart were 
there with Sir Hugh Calverly, an old friend of Knolles and 
a fellow-townsman, for both were men of Chester. Sir 
Hugh was a middle-sized flaxen man, with hard gray eyes 
and fierce large-nosed face sliced across with the scar of 
a sword-cut. There too were Geoffrey D'Ardaine, a young 
Breton seigneur, Sir Thomas Belford, a burly thick-set Mid- 
land Englishman, Sir Thomas Walton, whose surcoat of 
scarlet martlets showed that he was of the Surrey Waltons, 
James Marshall and John Russell, young English squires, 
and the two brothers, Richard and Hugh Le Galliard, who 
were of Gascon blood. Besides these were several squires, 
unknown to fame, and of the new-comers, Sir Robert 
Knolles, Sir Thomas Percy, Nigel Loring and two other 
squires, Allington and Parsons. These were the company 
who gathered in the torch-light round the table of the Sen- 
eschal of Ploermel, and kept high revel with joyous hearts 
because they thought that much honor and noble deeds lay 
before them. 

But one sad face there was at the board, and that be- 
longed to him at the head of it. Sir Robert Bambro' sat 
with his chin leaning upon his hand and his eyes downcast 
upon the cloth, whilst all round him rose the merry clatter 



Robert of Beaumanoir 279 

of voices, everyone planning some fresh enterprise which 
might now be attempted. Sir Robert Knolles was for an 
immediate advance upon Josselin. Calverly thought that 
a raid might be made into the South where the main French 
power lay. Others spoke of an attack upon Vannes. 

To all these eager opinions Bambro' listened in a moody 
silence, which he broke at last by a fierce execration which 
drew a hushed attention from the company. " Say no more, 
fair sirs/' he cried ; " for indeed your words are like so many 
stabs in my heart. All this and more we might indeed have 
done. But of a truth you are too late." 

"Too late?" cried Knolles. "What mean you, Rich- 
ard?" 

" Alas ; that I should have to say it, but you and all these 
fair soldiers might be back in England once more for all 
the profit that I am like to have from your coming. Saw 
you a rider on a white horse ere you reached the Castle ? " 

"Nay, I saw him not?" 

" He came by the western road from Hennebon. Would 
that he had broken his neck ere he came here. Not an hour 
ago he left his message and now hath ridden on to warn 
the garrison of Malestroit. A truce has been proclaimed for 
a year betwixt the French King and the English, and he who 
breaks it forfeits life and estate." 

" A truce ! " Here was an end to all their fine dreams. 
They looked blankly at each other all round the table, whilst 
Croquart brought his great fist down upon the board until 
the glasses rattled again. Knolles sat with clenched hands 
as if he were a figure of stone, while Nigel's heart turned 
cold and heavy within him. A truce ! Where then was his 
third deed, and how might he return without it ? 

Even as they sat in moody silence there was the call of 
a bugle from somewhere out in the darkness. 

Sir Richard looked up with surprise. " We are not wont 
to be summoned after once the portcullis is up," said he. 
" Truce or no truce, we must let no man within our walls 
until we have proved him. Croquart, see to it ! " 

The huge German left the room. The company were still 
seated in despondent silence when he returned. 

" Sir Richard," said he, " the brave knight Robert of 



280 Sir Nigel 

Beaumanoir and his Squire William de Montaubon are with- 
out the gate, and would fain have speech with you." 

Bambro started in his chair. What could the fierce leader 
of the Bretons, a man who was red to the elbow with Eng- 
lish blood, have to say to them? On what errand had he 
left his castle of Josselin to pay this visit to his deadly 
enemies ? 

" Are they armed ? " he asked. 

" They are unarmed." 

" Then admit them and bring them hither, but double the 
guards and take all heed against surprise." 

Places were set at the farther end of the table for these 
most unexpected guests. Presently the door was swung 
open, and Croquart with all form and courtesy announced 
the two Bretons, who entered with the proud and lofty air 
of gallant warriors and high-bred gentlemen. 

Beaumanoir was a tall dark man with raven hair and long 
swarthy beard. He was strong and straight as a young oak, 
with fiery black eyes, and no flaw in his comely features 
save that his front teeth had been dashed from their sockets. 
His Squire, William of Montaubon, was also tall, with a 
thin hatchet face, and two small gray eyes set very close 
upon either side of a long fierce nose. In Beaumanoir's 
expression one read only gallantry and frankness ; in Mon- 
taubon's there was gallantry also, but it was mixed with 
the cruelty and curming of the wolf. They bowed as they 
entered, and the little English seneschal advanced with out- 
stretched hand to meet them. 

" Welcome, Robert, so long as you are beneath this 
roof," said he. " Perhaps the time may come in another 
place when we may speak to each other in another 
fashion." 

" So I hope, Richard," said Beaumanoir ; " but indeed we 
of Josselin bear you in high esteem and are much beholden 
to you and to your men for all that you have done for us. 
We could not wish better neighbors nor any from whom 
more honor is to be gained. I learn that Sir Robert Knolles 
and others have joined you, and we are heavy-hearted to 
think that the orders of our Kings should debar us from 
attempting a venture." He and his squire sat down at the 



Robert of Beaumanoir 281 

places set for them, and filling their glasses drank to the 
company. 

" What you say is true, Robert," said Bambro, " and be- 
fore you came we were discussing the matter among our- 
selves and grieving that it should be so. When heard you 
of the truce?" 

" Yester-evening a messenger rode from Nantes." 

" Our news came to-night from Hennebon. The King's 
own seal was on the order. So I fear that for a year at 
least you will bide at Josselin and we at Ploermel, and kill 
time as we may. Perchance we may hunt the wolf together 
in the great forest, or fly our hawks on the banks of the 
Due." 

" Doubtless we shall do all this, Richard," said Beau- 
manoir ; " but by Saint Cadoc it is in my mind that with 
good-will upon both sides we may please ourselves and yet 
stand excused before our Kings." 

Knights and squires leaned forward in their chairs, their 
eager eyes fixed upon him. He broke into a gap-toothed 
smile as he looked round at the circle, the wizened seneschal, 
the blond giant, Nigel's fresh young face, the grim features 
of Knolles, and the yellow hawk-like Calverly, all burning 
with the same desire. 

" I see that I need not doubt the good-will," said he, " and 
of that I was very certain before I came upon this errand. 
Bethink you then that this order applies to war but not to 
challenges, spear-runnings, knightly exchanges or the like. 
King Edward is too good a knight, and so is King John, 
that either of them should stand in the way of a gentleman 
who desires to advance himself or to venture his body for 
the exaltation of his lady. Is this not so ? " 

A murmur of eager assent rose from the table. 

"If you as the garrison of Floer-mel march upon the gar- 
rison of Josselin, then it is very plain that we have broken 
the truce and upon our heads be it. But if there be a private 
bickering betwixt me, for example, and this young squire 
whose eyes show that he is very eager for honor, and if 
thereafter others on each side join in and fight upon the 
quarrel, it is in no sense war, but rather our own private 
business which no king can alter." 



282 Sir Nigel 

" Indeed, Robert," said Bambro, " all that you say is very 
good and fair." 

Beaumanoir leaned forward toward Nigel, his brimming 
glass in his hand. " Your name, squire ? " said he. 

" My name is Nigel Loring." 

" I see that you are young and eager, so I choose you as 
I would fain have been -chosen when I was of your age." 

" I thank you, fair sir," said Nigel. " It is great honor 
that one so famous as yourself should condescend to do some 
small deed upon me." 

" But we must have cause for quarrel, Nigel. Now here 
I drink to the ladies of Brittany, who of all ladies upon this 
earth are the most fair and the most virtuous, so that the 
least worthy amongst them is far above the best of England. 
What say you to that, young sir ? " 

Nigel dipped his finger in his glass and leaning over he 
placed its wet impress on the Breton's hand. " This in your 
face ! " said he. 

Beaumanoir swept off the red drop of moisture and smiled 
his approval. " It could not have been better done," said 
he. " Why spoil my velvet paltock as many a hot-headed 
fool would have done. It is in my mind, young sir, that you' 
will go far. And now, who follows up this quarrel ? " 
.A growl ran round the table. 

Beaumanoir ran his eye round and shook his head. 
" Alas ! " said he, " there are but twenty of you here, and I 
have thirty at Josselin who are so eager to advance them- 
selves that if I return without hope for all of them there 
will be sore hearts amongst them. I pray you, Richard, 
since we have been at these pains to arrange matters, that 
you in turn will do what you may. Can you not find ten 
more men ? " 

" But not of gentle blood." 

" Nay, it matters not, if they will only fight." 

" Of that there can be no doubt, for the castle is full of 
archers and men-at-arms who would gladly play a part in 
the matter." 

" Then choose ten," said Beaumanoir. 

But for the first time the wolf-like squire opened his thin 
lips. " Surely, my lord, you will not allow archers," said he. 



Robert of Beaumanoir 283 

" I fear not any man." 

" Nay, fair sir, consider that this is a trial of weapons, 
betwixt us where man faces man. You have seen these 
English archers, and you know how fast and how strong 
are their shafts. Bethink you that if ten of them were 
against us it is likely that half of us would be down before 
ever we came to handstrokes." 

" By Saint Cadoc, William, I think that you are right," 
cried the Breton. " If we are to have such a fight as will 
remain in the memories of men, you will bring no archers 
and we no crossbows. Let it be steel upon steel. How say 
you then ? " 

" Surely we can bring ten^ men-at-arms to make up the 
thirty that you desire, Robert. It is agreed then that we 
fight on no quarrel of England and France, but over this 
matter of the ladies in which you and Squire Loring have 
fallen out. And now the time ? " 

"At once." 

" Surely at once, or perchance a second messenger may 
come and this also be forbidden. We will be ready with 
to-morrow's sunrise." 

" Nay, a day later," cried the Breton Squire. " Bethink 
you, my lord, that the three lances of Radenac would take 
time to come over." 

" They are not of our garrison, and they shall not have 
a place." 

" But, fair sir, of all the lances of Brittany " 

" Nay, William, I will not have it an hour later. To- 
morrow it shall be, Richard." 

"And where?" 

" I marked a fitting place even as I rode here this even- 
ing. If you cross the river and take the bridle-path through 
the fields which leads to Josselin you come midway upon 
a mighty oak standing at the corner of a fair and level 
meadow. There let us meet at midday to-morrow." 

" Agreed ! " cried Bambro. " But I pray you not to rise, 
Robert! The night is still young and the spices and hip- 
pocras will soon be served. Bide with us, I pray you, for 
if you would fain hear the latest songs from England, these 
gentlemen have doubtless brought them. To some of us 



284 Sir Nigel 

perchance it is the last night, so we would make it a full 
one." 

But the gallant Breton shook his head. " It may indeed 
be the last night for many," said he, " and it is but right 
that my comrades should know it. I have no need of 
monk or friar, for I cannot think that harm will ever come 
beyond the grave to one who has borne himself as a knight 
should, but others have other thoughts upon these matters 
and would fain have time for prayer and penitence. Adieu, 
fair sirs, and I drink a last glass to a happy meeting at the 
midway oak." 



M' 

r 



XXIII 

HOW THIRTY OF JOSSELIN ENCOUNTERED THIRTY 
OF PLOERMEL 

ALL night the Castle of Ploermel rang with warlike 
preparations, for the smiths were hammering and 
filing and riveting, preparing the armor for the 
champions. In the stable yard hostlers were testing and 
grooming the great war-horses, whilst in the chapel knights 
and squires were easing their souls at the knees of old 
Father Benedict. 

Down in the courtyard, meanwhile.^ the men-at-arms had 
been assembled, and the volunteers ^^ded out until the 
best men had been selected. BlackHlMpi had obtained a 
place, and great was the joy which sht^Pupon his grim vis- 
age. With him were chosen young Nicholas Dagsworth, a 
gentleman adventurer who was nephew to the famous Sir 
Thomas, Walter the German, Hulbitee a huge peasant 
whose massive frame gave promise which his sluggish spirit 
failed to fulfil John Alcock, Robin Adey and Raoul Pro- 
vost. These with three others made up the required thirty. 
Great was the grumbling and evil the talk amongst the 
archers when it was learned that none of them were to be 
included, but the bow had been forbidden on either side. It 
is true that many of them were expert fighters both with 
ax and with sword>J^tf they were unused to carry heavy 
armor, and a half-^Jfe man would have short shrift in 
such a hand-to-han<fstruggle as lay before them. 

It was two hours after tierce, or one hour before noon, 
on the fourth Wednesday of Lent in the year of Christ 1351 
that the men of Ploermel rode forth from their castle-gate 
and crossed the bridge of the Due. In front was Bambro 
with his Squire Croquart, the latter on a great roan horse 
bearing the banner of Ploermel, which was a black rampant 
ion holding a blue flag upon a field of ermine. Behind him 
' 385 



286 Sir Nigel 



came Robert Knolles and Nigel Loring, with an attendant 
at their side, who carried the pennon of the black raven. 
Then rode Sir Thomas Percy with his blue lion flaunting 
above him, and Sir Hugh Calverly, whose banner bore a 
silver owl, followed by the massive Belford who carried a 
huge iron club, weighing sixty pounds, upon his saddle- 
bow, and Sir Thomas Walton the knight of Surrey. Be- 
hind them were four brave Anglo-Bretons, Perrot de Com- 
melain, Le Gaillart, d'Aspremont and d'Ardaine, who fought 
against their own countrymen because they were partisans 
of the Countess of Montfort. Her engrailed silver cross 
upon a blue field was carried at their head. In the rear were 
five German or Hainault mercenaries, the tall Hulbitee, and 
the men-at-arms. Altogether of these combatants twenty 
were of English birth, four were Breton and six were of 
German blood. 

So, with glitter of armor and flaunting of pennons, their 
war-horses tossing and pawing, the champions rode down 
to the midway oak. Behind them streamed hundreds of 
archers and men-at-arms whose weapons had been wisely 
taken from them lest a general battle should ensue. With 
them also went the townsfolk, men and women, together 
with wine-sellers, provisions merchants, armorers, grooms 
and heralds, with surgeons to tend the wounded and priests 
to shrive the dying. The path was blocked by this throng, 
but all over the face of the country horsemen and footmen, 
gentle and simple, men and women, could be seen speeding 
their way to the scene of the encounter. I 

The journey was not a long one, for presently, as they 
threaded their way through the fields, there appeared be- 
fore them a great gray oak which spread its gnarled leafless 
branches over the corner of a green and level meadow. 
The tree was black with the peasants who had climbed into 
it, and all round it was a huge throng, chattering and calling 
like a rookery at sunset. A storm of hooting broke out from 
them at the approach of the English, for Bambro was hated 
in the country where he raised money for the Montfort 
.cause by putting every parish to ransom and maltreating 
those who refused to pay. There was little amenity in the 
warlike ways which had been learned upon the Scottish 



Josselin Encountered Ploermel 287 

border. The champions rode onward without deigning to 
take notice of the taunts of the rabble, but the archers 
turned that way and soon beat the mob to silence. Then 
they resolved themselves into the keepers of the ground, and 
pressed the people back until they formed a dense line along 
the edge of the field, leaving the whole space clear for the 
warriors. 

The Breton champions had not yet arrived, so the Eng- 
lish tethered their horses at one side of the ground, and then 
gathered round their leader. Every man had his shield 
slung round his neck, and had cut his spear to the length of 
five feet so that it might be more manageable for fighting on 
foot. Besides the spear a sword or a battle-ax hung at 
the side of each. They were clad from head to foot in 
armor, with devices upon the crests and surcoats to distin- 
guish them from their antagonists. At present their visors 
were still up and they chatted gayly with each other. 

" By Saint Dunstan!." cried Percy, slapping his gaunt- 
leted hands together and stamping his steel feet. " I shall 
be right glad to get to work, for my blood is chilled." 

" I warrant you will be warm enough ere you get 
through," said Calverly. 

" Or cold forever. Candle shall burn and bell toll at Aln- 
wick Chapel if I leave this ground alive, but come what 
may, fair sirs, it should be a famous joust and one which 
will help us forward. Surely each of us will have worship- 
fully won worship, if we chance to come through." 

" You say truth, Thomas," said Knolles, bracing his 
girdle. " For my own part I have no joy in such encounters 
when there is warfare to be carried out, for it standeth not 
aright that a man should think of his own pleasure and ad- 
vancement rather than of the King's cause and the weal of 
the army. But in times of truce I can think of no better 
way in which a day may be profitably spent. Why so silent, 
Nigel?" 

" Indeed, fair sir, I was looking toward Josselin, which 
lies as I understand beyond those woods. I see no sign of 
this debonair gentleman and of his following. It would be 
indeed grievous pity if any cause came to hold them back." 

Hugh Calverly laughed at the words. " You need have 



288 Sir Nigel 

no fear, young sir," said he. " Such a spirit lies in Robert 
de Beaumanoir that if he must come alone he would ride 
against us none the less. I warrant that if he were on a 
bed of death he would be borne here and die on the green 
field." 

" You say truly, Hugh," said Bambro. " I know him and 
those who ride behind him. Thirty stouter men or more 
skilled in arms are not to be found in Christendom. It is 
in my mind that come what may there will be much honor 
for all of us this day. Ever in my head I have a rhyme 
which the wife of a Welsh archer gave me when I crossed 
her hand with a golden bracelet after the intaking of Ber- 
gerac. She was of the old blood of Merlin with the power 
of sight. Thus she said: 

'Twixt the oak-tree and the river 
Knightly fame and brave endeavor 
Make an honored name forever. 

Methinks I see the oak-tree, and yonder is the river. Surely 
this should betide some good to us." 

The huge German Squire betrayed some impatience dur- 
ing this speech of his leader. Though his rank was sub- 
ordinate, no man present had more experience of warfare 
or was more famous as a fighter than he. He now broke 
brusquely into the talk. " We should be better employed in 
ordering our line and making our plans than in talking 
of the rhymes of Merlin or such old wives' tales," said he. 
" It is to our own strong arms and good weapons that we 
must trust this day. And first I would ask you, Sir Richard, 
what is your will if perchance you should fall in the midst 
of the fight?" 

Bambro turned to the others. " If such should be the 
case, fair sirs, I desire that my Squire Croquart should com- 
mand." 

There was a pause while the knights looked with some 
chagrin at each other. The silence was broken by Knolles. 

" I will do what you say, Richard," said he, " tfciough 
indeed it is bitter that we who are knights should serve be- 
neath a squire. Yet it is not for us to fall QU$ among* our- 



Josselin Encountered Ploermel 289 

selves now at this last moment, and I have ever heard that 
Croquart is a very worthy and valiant man. Therefore, I 
will pledge you on jeopardy of my soul that I will accept 
him as leader if you fall." 

" So will I also, Richard," said Calverly. 

" And I too ! " cried Belford. " But surely I hear music, 
and yonder are their pennons amid the trees." 

They all turned, leaning upon their short spears, and 
watched the advance of the men of Josselin, as their troop 
wound its way out from the woodlands. In front rode three 
heralds with tabards of the ermine of Brittany, blowing 
loudly upon silver trumpets. Behind them a great man 
upon a white horse bore the banner of Josselin which car- 
ries nine golden torteaus upon a scarlet field. Then came 
the champions riding two and two, fifteen knights and fif- 
teen squires, each with his pennon displayed. Behind them 
on a litter was borne an aged priest, the Bishop of Rennes, 
carrying in his hands the viaticum and the holy oils that he 
might give the last aid and comfort of the Church to those 
who were dying. The procession was terminated by hun- 
dreds of men and women from Josselin, Guegon, and Hel- 
leon, and by the entire garrison of the fortress, who came, 
as the English had done, without their arms. The head 
of this long column had reached the field before the rear 
were clear of the wood, but as they arrived the champions 
picketed their horses on the farther side, behind which their 
banner was planted and the people lined up until they had 
inclosed the whole lists with a dense wall of spectators. 

With keen eyes the English party had watched the ar- 
morial blazonry of their antagonists, for those fluttering 
pennons and brilliant surcoats carried a language which all 
men could read. In front was the banner of Beaumanoir, 
blue with silver frets. His motto " J'ayme qui m'ayme " 
was carried on a second flag by a little page. 

" Whose is the shield behind him silver with scarlet 
drops ? " asked Knolles. 

" It is his Squire, William of Montaubon," Calverly an- 
swered. " And there are the golden lion of Rochefort and 
the silver cross of Du Bois the Strong. I would not wish 
to meet a better company than are before us this day. See, 



2 go Sir Nigel 

there are the blue rings of young Tintiniac, who slew my 
Squire Hubert last Lammastide. With the aid of Saint 
George I will avenge him ere nightfall." 

" By the three kings of Almain," growled Croquart, " we 
will need to fight hard this day, for never have I seen so 
many good soldiers gathered together. Yonder is Yves 
Cheruel, whom they call the man of iron, Caro de Bodegat 
also with whom I have had more than one bickering that 
is he with the three ermine circles on the scarlet shield. 
There too is left-handed Alain de Karanais ; bear in mind 
that his stroke comes on the side where there is no shield." 

" Who is the small stout man " asked Nigel " he with 
the black and silver shield? By Saint Paul! he seems a 
very worthy person and one from whom much might be 
gained, for he is nigh as broad as he is long." 

" It is Sir Robert Raguenel," said Calverly, whose long 
spell of service in Brittany had made him familiar with the 
people. " It is said that he can lift a horse upon his back. 
Beware a full stroke of that steel mace, for the armor is not 
made that can abide it. But here is the good Beaumanoir, 
and surely it is time that we came to grips." 

The Breton leader had marshaled his men in a line op- 
posite to the English, and now he strode forward and shook 
Bambro by the hand. " By Saint Cadoc ! this is a very joy- 
ous meeting, Richard," said he, " and we have certainly hit 
upon a very excellent way of keeping a truce." 

" Indeed, Robert," said Bambro, " we owe you much 
thanks, for I can see that you have been at great pains 
to bring a worthy company against us this day. Surely if 
all should chance to perish there will be few noble houses 
in Brittany who will not mourn." 

" Nay, we have none of the highest of Brittany," Beau- 
manoir answered. " Neither a Blois, nor a Leon, nor a 
Rohan, nor a Conan, fights in our ranks this day. And yet 
we are all men of blood and coat-armor, who are ready 
to venture our persons for the desire of our ladies and the 
love of the high order of knighthood. And now, Richard, 
what is your sweet will concerning this fight? " 

" That we continue until one or other can endure no 
longer, for since it is seldom that so many brave men 



Josselin Encountered Ploermel 291 

draw together it is fitting that we see as much as is possible 
of each other." 

" Richard, your words are fair and good. It shall be even 
as you say. For the rest, each shall fight as pleases him 
best from the time that the herald calls the word. If any 
man from without shall break in upon us he shall be hanged 
on yonder oak." 

With a salute he drew down his visor and returned to 
his own men, who were kneeling in a twinkling, many- 
colored group whilst the old bishop gave them his blessing. 

The heralds rode round with a warning to the spectators. 
Then they halted at the side of the two bands of men who 
now stood in a long line facing each other with fifty yards 
of grass between. The visors had been closed, and every 
man was now cased in metal from head to foot, some few 
glowing in brass, the greater number shining in steel. Only 
their fierce eyes could be seen smoldering in the dark 
shadow of their helmets. So for an instant they stood 
glaring and crouching. 

Then with a loud cry of "Allez!" the herald dropped 
his upraised hand, and the two lines of men shufHed as fast 
as their heavy armor would permit until they met with 
a sharp clang of metal in the middle of the field. There 
was a sound as of sixty smiths working upon their anvils. 
Then the babel of yells and shouts from the spectators, 
cheering on this party or that, rose and swelled until even 
the uproar of the combat was drowned in that mighty surge. 

So eager were the combatants to engage that in a few 
moments all order had been lost and the two bands were 
mixed up in one furious scrambling, clattering throng, each 
man tossed hither and thither, thrown against one adver- 
sary and then against another, beaten and hustled and buf- 
feted, with only the one thought in his mind to thrust with 
his spear or to beat with his ax against anyone who came 
within the narrow slit of vision left by his visor. 

But alas for Nigel and his hopes of some great deed! 
His was at least the fate of the brave, for he was the first 
to fall. With a high heart he had placed himself in the line 
as nearly opposite to Beaumanoir as he could, and had made 
straight for the Breton leader, remembering that in the out- 



292 Sir Nigel 

set the quarrel had been so ordered that it lay between them. 
But ere he could reach his goal he was caught in the swirl 
of his own comrades, and being the lighter man was swept 
aside and dashed into the arms of Alain de Karanais, the 
left-handed swordsman, with such a crash that the two 
rolled upon the ground together. Light footed as a cat, 
Nigel had sprung up first, and was stooping over the Breton 
Squire when the powerful dwarf Raguenel brought his mace 
thudding down upon the exposed back of his helmet. With 
a groan Nigel fell upon his face, blood gushing from his 
mouth, nose, and ears. There he lay, trampled over by 
either party, while that great fight for which his fiery soul 
had panted was swaying back and forward above his uncon- 
scious form. 

But Nigel was not long unavenged. The huge .iron club 
of Belford struck the dwarf Raguenel to the ground, while 
Belford in turn was felled by a sweeping blow from Beau- 
manoir. Sometimes a dozen were on the ground at one 
time, but so strong was the armor, and so deftly was the 
force of a blow broken by guard and shield, that the stricken 
men were often pulled to their feet once more by their com- 
rades, and were able to continue the fight. 

Some, however, were beyond all aid. Croquart had cut 
at a Breton knight named Jean Rousselot and had shorn 
away his shoulder-piece, exposing his neck and the upper 
part of his arm. Vainly he tried to cover this vulnerable 
surface with his shield. It was his right side, and he could 
not stretch it far enough across, nor could he get away 
on account of the press of men around him. For a time he 
held his foemen at bay, but that bare patch of white shoulder 
was a mark for every weapon, until at last a hatchet sank 
up to the socket in the knight's chest. Almost at the same 
moment a second Breton, a young Squire named Geoffrey 
Mellon, was slain by a thrust from Black Simon which 
found the weak spot beneath the armpit. Three other Bre- 
tons, Evan Cheruel, Caro de Bodegat, and Tristan de Pes- 
tivien, the first two knights and the latter a squire, became 
separated from their comrades, and were beaten to the 
ground with English all around them, so that they had to 
choose between instant death and surrender. They handed 



Josselin Encountered Ploermel 293 

their swords to Bambro and stood apart, each of them 
.sorely wounded, watching with hot and bitter hearts the 
melee which still surged up and down the field. 

But now the combat had lasted half an hour without stint 
or rest, until the warriors were so exhausted with the bur- 
den of their armor, the loss of blood, the shock of blows, 
and their own furious exertions, that they could scarce 
totter or raise their weapons. There must be a pause if the 
combat was to have any decisive end. " Cesses! Cesses! 
Retires!" cried the heralds, as they spurred their horses 
between the exhausted men. 

Slowly the gallant Beaumanoir led the twenty-five men 
who were left to their original station, where they opened 
their visors and threw themselves down upon the grass, 
panting like weary dogs, and wiping the sweat from their 
bloodshot eyes. A pitcher of wine of Anjou was carried 
round by a page, and each in turn drained a cup, save only 
Beaumanoir who kept his Lent with such strictness that 
neither food nor drink might pass his lips before sunset. He 
paced slowly amongst his men, croaking forth encourage- 
ment from his parched lips and pointing out to them that 
among the English there was scarce a man who was not 
wounded, and some so sorely that they could hardly stand. 
If the fight so far had gone against them, there were still 
five hours of daylight, and much might happen before the 
last of them was laid upon his back. 

Varlets had rushed forth to draw away the two dead Bre- 
tons, and a brace of English archers had carried Nigel from 
the field. With his own hands Aylward had unlaced the 
crushed helmet and had wept to see the bloodless and un- 
conscious face of his young master. He still breathed, 
however, and stretched upon the grass by the riverside the 
bowman tended him with rude surgery, until the water 
upon his brow and the wind upon his face had coaxed back 
the life into his battered frame. He breathed with heavy 
gasps, and some tinge of blood crept back into his cheeks, 
but still he lay unconscious of the roar of the crowd and 
of that great struggle which his comrades were now waging 
once again. 

The English had lain for a space bleeding and breath- 



294 Sir Nigel 

less, in no better case than their rivals, save that they were 
still twenty-nine in number. But of this muster there were 
not nine who were hale men, and some were so weak from 
loss of blood that they could scarce keep standing. Yet, 
when the signal was at last given to reengage there was 
not a man upon either side who did not totter to his feet and 
stagger forward toward his enemies. 

But the opening of this second phase of the combat 
brought one great misfortune and discouragement to the 
English. Bambro like the others, had undone his visor, but 
with his mind full of many cares he had neglected to make 
it fast again. There was an opening an inch broad betwixt 
it and the beaver. As the two lines rriet the left-handed 
Breton squire, Alain de Karanais, caught sight of Bambro's 
face, and in an instant thrust his short spear through the 
opening. The English leader gave a cry of pain and fell 
on his knees, but staggered to his feet again, too weak 
to raise his shield. As he stood exposed the Breton 
knight, Geoffrey Dubois the Strong, struck him such a 
blow with his ax that he beat in the whole breast-plate 
with the breast behind it. Bambro fell dead upon the 
ground and for a few minutes a fierce fight raged round 
his body. 

Then the English drew back, sullen and dogged, bearing 
Bambro with them, and the Bretons, breathing hard, gath- 
ered again in their own quarter. At the same instant the 
three prisoners picked up such weapons as were scattered 
upon the grass and ran over to join their own party. 

" Nay, nay ! " cried Knolles, raising his visor and advan- 
cing. " This may not be. You have been held to mercy 
when we might have slain you, and by the Virgin I will 
hold you dishonored, all three, if you stand not back." 

" Say not so, Robert Knolles," Evan Cheruel answered. 
" Never yet has the word dishonor been breathed with my 
name, but I should count myself faineant if I did not fight 
beside my comrades when chance has made it right and 
proper that I should do so." 

" By Saint Cadoc ! he speaks truly," croaked Beaumanoir, 
advancing in front of his men. " You are well aware, Rob- 
ert, that it is the law of war and the usage of chivalry that 



Josselin Encountered Ploermel 295 

if the knight to whom you have surrendered is himself slain 
the prisoners thereby become released." 

There was no answer to this and Knolles, weary and 
spent, returned to his comrades. " I would that we had 
slain them," said he. " We have lost our leader and they 
have gained three men by the same stroke." 

" If any more lay down their arms it is my order that 
you slay them forthwith," said Croquart, whose bent sword 
and bloody armor showed how manfully he had borne him- 
self in the fray. " And now, comrades, do not be heavy- 
hearted because we have lost our leader. Indeed, his 
rhymes of Merlin have availed him little. By the three 
kings of Almain! I can teach you what is better than an 
old woman's prophecies, and that is that you should keep 
your shoulders together and your shields so close that none 
can break between them. Then you will know what is on 
either side of you, and you can fix your eyes upon the front. 
Also, if any be so weak or wounded that he must sink his 
hands his comrades on right and left can bear him up. 
Now advance all together in God's name, for the battle is 
still ours if we bear ourselves like men." 

In a solid line the English advanced, while the Bretons 
ran forward as before to meet them. The swiftest of these 
was a certain Squire, Geoffrey Poulart, who bore a helmet 
which was fashioned as a cock's head, with high comb 
above, and long pointed beak in front pierced with the 
breathing-holes. He thrust with his sword at Calverly, but 
Belford who was the next in the line raised his giant club 
.and struck him a crushing blow from the side. He stag- 
gered, and then pushing forth from the crowd, he ran round 
and round in circles as one whose brain is stricken, the 
blood dripping from the holes of his brazen beak. So for 
a long time he ran, the crowd laughing and cock-crowing 
at the sight, until at last he stumbled and fell stone-dead 
upon his face. But the fighters had seen nothing of his 
fate, for desperate and unceasing was the rush of the Bret- 
ons and the steady advance of the English 'line. 

For a time it seemed as if nothing would break it, but 
gap-toothed Beaumanoir was a general as well as a warrior. 
Whilst his weary, bleeding, hard-breathing men still flung 



296 Sir Nigel 



themselves upon the front of the line, he himself with Ra- 
guenel,*Tentiniac, Alain de Karanais, and Dubois rushed 
round the flank and attacked the English with fury from 
behind. There was a long and desperate melee until once 
more the heralds, seeing the combatants stand gasping and 
unable to strike a blow, rode in and called yet another in- 
terval of truce. 

But in those few minutes whilst they had been assaulted 
upon both sides, the losses of the English party had been 
heavy. The Anglo-Breton D'Ardaine had fallen before 
Beaumanoir's sword, but not before he had cut deeply into 
his enemy's shoulder. Sir Thomas \Valton, Richard of Ire- 
land one of the Squires, and Hulbitee the big peasant had 
all fallen before the mace of the dwarf Raguenel or the 
swords of his companions. Some twenty men were still 
left standing upon either side, but all were in the last state 
of exhaustion, gasping, reeling, hardly capable of striking 
a blow. 

It was strange to see them as they staggered with many 
a lurch and stumble toward each other once again, for they 
moved like drunken men, and the scales of their neck-armor 
and joints were as red as fishes' gills when they raised them. 
They left foul wet footprints behind them on the green grass 
as they moved forward once more to their endless contest. 

Beaumanoir, faint with the drain of his blood and with 
a tongue of leather, paused as he advanced. " I am faint- 
ing, comrades," he cried. " I must drink." 

" Drink your own blood, Beaumanoir ! " cried Dubois, and 
the weary men all croaked together in dreadful laughter. 

But now the English had learned from experience, and 
under the guidance of Croquart they fought no longer in 
a straight line, but in one so bent that at last it became a 
circle. As the Bretons still pushed and staggered against 
it they thrust it back on every side, until they had turned 
it into the most dangerous formation of all, a solid block of 
men, their faces turned outward, their weapons bristling 
forth to meet every attack. Thus the English stood, and no 
assault could move them. They could lean against each 
other back to back while they waited and allowed their foe- 
men to tire themselves out. Again and again the gallant 



Josselin Encountered Ploermel 297 

Bretons tried to make a way through. Again and again 
they were beaten back by a shower of blows. 

Beaumanoir, his head giddy with fatigue, opened his hel- 
met and gazed in despair at this terrible, unbreakable circle. 
Only too clearly he could see the inevitable result. His 
men were wearing themselves out. Already many of them 
could scarce stir hand or foot, and might be dead for any 
aid which they could give him in winning the fight. Soon 
all would be in the same plight. Then these cursed Eng- 
lish would break their circle to swarm over his helpless men 
and to strike them down. Do what he might, he could see 
no way by which such an end might be prevented. He cast 
his eyes round in his agony, and there was one of his Bret- 
ons slinking away to the side of the lists. He could scarce 
credit his senses when he saw by the scarlet and silver that 
the deserter was his own well-tried squire, William of Mon- 
taubon. 

" William ! William ! " he cried. " Surely you would not 
leave me ? " 

But the other's helmet was closed and he could hear noth- 
ing. Beaumanoir saw that he was staggering away as 
swiftly as he could. With a cry of bitter despair, he drew 
into a knot as many of his braves as could still move, and 
together they made a last rush upon the English spears. 
This time he was firmly resolved, deep in his gallant soul, 
that he would come no foot back, but would find his death 
there amongst his foemen or carve a path into the heart 
of their ranks. The fire in his breast spread from man to 
man of his followers, and amid the crashing of blows they 
still locked themselves against the English shields and drove 
hard for an opening in their ranks. 

But all was vain ! Beaumanoir's head reeled. His senses 
were leaving him. In another minute he and his men would 
have been stretched senseless before this terrible circle of 
steel, when suddenly the whole array fell in pieces before 
his eyes, his enemies Croquart, Knolles, Calverly, Belford, 
all were stretched upon the ground together, their weapons 
dashed from their hands and their bodies too exhausted to 
rise. The surviving Bretons had but strength to fall upon 
them dagger in hands, and to wring from them their surren- 



298 Sir Nigel 

der with the sharp point -stabbing through their visors. 
Then victors and vanquished lay groaning and panting in 
one helpless and blood-smeared heap. 

To Beaumanoir's simple mind it had seemed that at the 
supreme moment the Saints of Brittany had risen at their 
country's call. Already, as he lay gasping, his heart was 
pouring forth its thanks to his patron Saint Cadoc. But the 
spectators had seen clearly enough the earthly cause of this 
sudden victory, and a hurricane of applause from one side, 
with a storm of hooting from the other showed how differ- 
ent was the emotion which it raised in minds which sym- 
pathized with the victors or the vanquished. 

William of Montaubon, the cunning squire, had made his 
way across to the spot where the steeds were tethered, and 
had mounted his own great roussin. At first it was thought 
that he was about to ride from the field, but the howl of exe- 
cration from the Breton peasants changed suddenly to a 
yell of applause and delight as he turned the beast's head 
for the English circle and thrust his long prick spurs into 
its side. Those who faced him saw this sudden and unex- 
pected appearance. Time was when both horse and rider 
must have winced away from the shower of their blows. 
But now they were in no state to meet such a rush. They 
could scarce raise their arms. Their blows were too feeble 
to hurt this mighty creature. In a moment it had plunged 
through the ranks, and seven of them were on the grass. 
It turned and rushed through them again, leaving five others 
helpless beneath its hoofs. No need to do more! Already 
Beaumanoir and his companions were inside the circle, the 
prostrate men were helpless, and Josselin had won. 

That night a train of crestfallen archers, bearing many 
a prostrate figure, marched sadly into Ploermel Castle. Be- 
hind them rode ten men, all weary, all wounded, and all 
with burning hearts against William of Montaubon for the 
foul trick that he had served them. 

But over at Josselin, yellow gorse-blossoms in their hel- 
mets, the victors were borne in on the shoulders of a shout- 
ing mob, amid the fanfare of trumpets and the beating of 
drums. Such was the combat of the Midway Oak, where 
brave men met brave men, and such honor was gained that 




ALL WEARY, ALL WOUNDED, AND ALL WITH BURNING HEARTS 



Josselin Encountered Ploermel 299 

from that day he who had fought in the Battle of the Thirty 
was ever given the highest place and the post of honor, nor 
was it easy for any man to pretend to have been there, for 
it has been said by that great chronicler who knew them all, 
that not one on either side failed to carry to his grave the 
marks of that stern encounter. 



XXIV 

HOW NIGEL WAS CALLED TO HIS MASTER 

MY sweet ladye," wrote Nigel in a script which it 
would take the eyes of love to read, " there hath 
been a most noble meeting in the fourth sennight 
of Lent betwixt some of our own people and sundry most 
worthy persons of this country, which ended, by the grace 
of our Lady, in so fine a joust that no man living can call 
to mind so fair an occasion. Much honor was gained by 
the Sieur de Beaumanoir and also by an Almain named 
Croquart, with whom I hope to have some speech when I 
am hale again, for he is a most excellent person and very 
ready to advance himself or to relieve another from a vow. 
For myself I had hoped, with Godde's help, to venture that 
third small deed which might set me free to haste to your 
sweet side, but things have gone awry with me, and I early 
met with such scathe and was of so small comfort to my 
friends that my heart is heavy within me, and in sooth I feel 
that I have lost honour rather than gained it. Here I have 
lain since the Feast of the Virgin, and here I am like still 
to be, for I can move no limb, save only my hand ; but grieve 
not, sweet lady, for Saint Catharine hath been our friend 
since in so short a time I had two such ventures as the Red 
Ferret and the intaking of the Reaver's fortalice. It needs 
but one more deed, and sickerly when I am hale once more 
it will not be long ere I seek it out. Till then, if my eyes may 
not rest upon you, my heart at least is ever at thy feet." 

So he wrote from his sick-room in the Castle of Ploermel 
late in the summer, but yet another summer had come before 
his crushed head had mended and his wasted limbs had 
gained their strength once more. With despair he heard of 
the breaking of the truce, and of the fight at Mauron in 
which Sir Robert Knolles and Sir Walter Bentley crushed 
the rising power of Brittany a fight in which many of the 

300 



Called to his Master 301 

thirty champions of Josselin met their end. Then, when 
with renewed strength and high hopes in his heart he went 
forth to search for the famous Croquart who proclaimed 
himself ever ready night or day to meet any man with any 
weapon, it was only to find that in trying the paces of his 
new horse the German had been cast into a ditch and had 
broken his neck. In the same ditch perished Nigel's last 
chance of soon accomplishing that deed which should free 
him from his vow. 

There was truce once more over all Christendom, and 
mankind was sated with war, so that only in far-off Prussia, 
where the Teutonic knights waged ceaseless battle with the 
Lithuanian heathen, could he hope to find his heart's desire. 
But money and high knightly fame were needed ere a man 
could go upon the northern crusade, and ten years were yet 
to pass ere Nigel should look from the battlements of Ma- 
rienberg on the waters of the Frische Haff, or should en- 
dure the torture of the hot plate when bound to the Holy 
Woden stone of Memel. Meanwhile, he chafed his burn- 
ing soul out through the long seasons of garrison life in 
Brittany, broken only by one visit to the chateau of the 
father of Raoul, when he carried to the Lord of Grosbois 
the news of how his son had fallen like a gallant gentleman 
under the gateway of La Brohiniere. 

And then, then at last, when all hope was well-nigh dead 
in his heart, there came one glorious July morning which 
brought a horseman bearing a letter to the Castle of Vannes, 
of which Nigel now was seneschal. It contained but few 
words, short and clear as the call of a war-trumpet. It was 
Chandos who wrote. He needed his Squire at his side, for 
his pennon was in the breeze once more. He was at Bor- 
deaux. The Prince was starting at once for Bergerac, 
whence he would make a great raid into France. It would 
not end without a battle. They had sent word of their com- 
ing, and the good French King had promised to be at great 
pains to receive them. Let Nigel hasten at once. If the 
army had left, then let him follow after with all speed. 
Chandos had three other squires, but would very gladly see 
his fourth once again, for he had heard much of him since 
he parted, and nothing which he might not have expected 



302 Sir Nigel 

to hear of his father's son. Such was the letter which made 
the summer sun shine brighter and the blue sky seem of a 
still fairer blue upon that happy morning in Vannes. 

It is a weary way from Vannes to Bordeaux. Coastwise 
ships are hard to find, and winds blow north when all brave 
hearts would fain be speeding south. A full month has 
passed from the day when Nigel received his letter before 
he stood upon the quay-side of the Garonne amid the 
stacked barrels of Gascon wine and helped to lead Pommers 
down the gang-planks. Not Aylward himself had a worse 
opinion of the sea than the great yellow horse, and he whin- 
nied with joy as he thrust his muzzle into his master's out- 
stretched hand, and stamped his ringing hoofs upon the 
good firm cobblestones. Beside him, slapping his tawny 
shoulder in encouragement, was the lean spare form of 
Black Simon who had remained ever under Nigel's pennon. 

But Aylward, where was he? Alas! two years before 
he and the whole of Knolles' company of archers had been 
drafted away on the King's service to Guienne, and since 
he could not write the Squire knew not whether he was alive 
or dead. Simon, indeed, had thrice heard of him from wan- 
dering archers, each time that he was alive and well and 
newly married, but as the wife in one case was a fair maid, 
and in another a dark, while in the third she was a French 
widow, it was hard to know the truth. 

Already the army had been gone a month, but news of it 
came daily to the town, and such news as all men could read, 
for through the landward gates there rolled one constant 
stream of wagons, pouring down the Libourne Road, and 
bearing the booty of Southern France. The town was full 
of foot-soldiers, for none but mounted men had been taken 
by the Prince. With sad faces and longing eyes they 
watched the passing of the train of plunder-laden carts, 
piled high with rich furniture, silks, velvets, tapestries, carv- 
ings, and precious metals, which had been the pride of many 
a lordly home in fair Auvergne 'or the wealthy Bourbonnais. 

Let no man think that in these wars England alone was 
face to face with France alone. There is glory and to spare 
without trifling with the truth. Two Provinces in France, 
both rich and warlike, had become English through a royal 



Called to his Master 303 

marriage, and these, Guienne and Gascony, furnished many 
of the most valiant soldiers under the island flag. So poor 
a country as England could not afford to keep a great force 
overseas, and so must needs have lost the war with France 
through want of power to uphold the struggle. The feudal 
system enabled an army to be drawn rapidly together with 
small expense, but at the end of a few weeks it dispersed 
again as swiftly, and only by a well-filled money-chest could 
it be held together. There was no such chest in England, 
and the King was forever at his wits' end how to keep his 
men in the field. 

But Guienne and Gascony were full of knights and 
squires who were always ready to assemble from their iso- 
lated castles for a raid into France, and these with the addi- 
tion of those English cavaliers who fought for honor, and 
a few thousand of the formidable archers, hired for four- 
pence a day, made an army with which a short campaign 
could be carried on. Such were the materials of the Prince's 
force, some eight thousand strong, who were now riding in 
a great circle through Southern France, leaving a broad 
wale of blackened and ruined country behind them. 

But France, even with her southwestern corner in English 
hands, was still a very warlike power, far richer and more 
populous than her rival. Single Provinces were so great 
that they were stronger than many a kingdom. Normandy 
in the north, Burgundy in the east, Brittany in the west and 
Languedoc in the south were each capable of fitting out a 
great army of their own. Therefore the brave and spirited 
John, watching from Paris this insolent raid into his do- 
minions, sent messengers in hot haste to all these great 
feudatories as well as to Lorraine, Picardy, Auvergne, Hai- 
nault, Vermandois, Champagne, and to the German merce- 
naries over his eastern border, bidding all of them to ride 
hard, with bloody spur, day and night, until they should 
gather to a head at Chartres. 

There a 'great army had assembled early in September, 
whilst the Prince, all unconscious of its presence sacked 
towns and besieged castles from Bourges to Issodun, pass- 
ing Romorautin, and so onward to Vierzon and to' Tours. 
From week to week there were merry skirmishes at barriers, 



304 Sir Nigel 

brisk assaults of fortresses in which much honor was won, 
knightly meetings with detached parties of Frenchmen and 
occasional spear-runnings where noble champions deigned 
to venture their persons. Houses, too, were to be plundered, 
while wine and women were in plenty. Never had either 
knights or archers had so pleasant and profitable an excur- 
sion, so that it was with high heart and much hope of pleas- 
ant days at Bordeaux with their pockets full of money that 
the army turned south from the Loire and began to retrace 
its steps to the seaboard city. 

But now its pleasant and martial promenade changed sud- 
denly to very serious work of war. As the Prince moved 
south he found that all supplies had been cleared away from 
in front of him and that there was neither fodder for the 
horses nor food for the men. Two hundred wagons laden 
with spoil rolled at the head of the army, but the starving 
soldiers would soon have gladly changed it all for as many 
loads of bread and of meat. The light troops of the French 
had preceded them and burned or destroyed everything that 
could be of use. Now also for the first time the Prince and 
his men became aware that a great army was moving upon 
the eastern side of them, streaming southward in the hope 
of cutting off their retreat to the sea. The sky glowed with 
their fires at night, and the autumn sun twinkled and 
gleamed from one end of the horizon to the other upon the 
steel caps and flashing weapons of a mighty host. 

Anxious to secure his plunder, and conscious that the 
levies of France were far superior in number to his own 
force, the Prince redoubled his attempts to escape; but his 
horses were exhausted and his starving men were hardly 
to be kept in order. A few more days would unfit them for 
battle. Therefore, when he found near the village of Mau- 
pertuis a position in which a small force might have a chance 
to hold its own, he gave up the attempt to outmarch his pur- 
suers, and he turned at bay, like a hunted boar, all tusks 
and eyes of flame. 

Whilst these high events had been in progress, Nigel with 
Black Simon and four other men-at-arms from Bordeaux, 
was hastening northward to join the army. As far as Ber- 
gerac they were in a friendly land, but thence onward they 



Called to his Master 305 

rode over a blackened landscape with many a roofless house, 
its two bare gable-^ends sticking upward a " Knolles' 
miter " as it was afterward called when Sir Robert worked 
his stern will upon the country. For three days they rode 
northward, seeing many small parties of French in all di- 
rections, but too eager to reach the army to ease their march 
in the search of adventures. 

Then at last after passing Lusignan they began to come 
in touch with English foragers, mounted bowmen for the 
most part, who were endeavoring to collect supplies either 
for the army or for themselves. From them Nigel learned 
that the Prince, with Chandos ever at his side, was hasten- 
ing south and might be met within a short day's march. 
As he still advanced these English stragglers became more 
and more numerous, until at last he overtook a considerable 
column of archers moving in the same direction as his 
own party. These were men whose horses had failed them 
and who had therefore been left behind on the advance, 
but were now hastening to be in time for the impending 
battle. A crowd of peasant girls accompanied them upon 
their march, and a whole train of laden mules were led 
beside them. 

Nigel and his little troop of men-at-arms were riding past 
the archers when Black Simon with a sudden exclamation 
touched his leader upon the arm. 

" See yonder, fair sir," he cried, with gleaming eyes, 
" there where the wastrel walks with the great fardel upon 
his back ! Who is he who marches behind him ? " 

Nigel looked, and was aware of a stunted peasant who 
bore upon his rounded back an enormous bundle very much 
larger than himself. Behind him walked a burly broad- 
shouldered archer, whose stained jerkin and battered head- 
piece gave token of long and hard service. His bow was 
slung over his shoulder, and his arms were round the waists 
of two buxom Frenchwomen, who tripped along beside him 
with much laughter and many saucy answers flung back 
over their shoulders to a score of admirers behind them. 

" Aylward ! " cried Nigel, spurring forward. 

The archer turned his bronzed face, stared for an instant 
with wild eyes, and then, dropping his two ladies, who were 



3.06 Sir Nigel 

instantly carried off by his comrades, he rushed to seize the 
hand which his young master held down to him. " Now, 
by my hilt, Squire Nigel, this is the fairest sight of my 
lifetime ! " he cried. " And you, old leather-face ! Nay, 
Simon, I would put my arms round your dried herring of 
a body, if I could but reach you. Here is Pommers too, 
and I read in his eye that he knows me well and is as ready 
to put his teeth into me as when he stood in my father's 
stall." 

It was like a whiff of the heather-perfumed breezes of 
Hankley to see his homely face once more. Nigel laughed 
with sheer joy as he looked at him. 

" It was an ill day when the King's service called you 
from my side," said he, " and by Saint Paul ! I am right 
glad to set eyes upon you once more ! I see well that you 
are in no wise altered, but the same Aylward that I have 
ever known. But who is this varlet with the great bundle 
who waits upon your movements ? " 

" It is no less than a feather-bed, fair sir, which he bears 
upon his back, for I would fain bring it to Tilford, and yet 
it is overlarge for me when I take my place with my fellows 
in the ranks. But indeed this war has been a most excellent 
one, and I have already sent half a wagonload of my gear 
back to Bordeaux to await my homecoming. Yet I have 
my fears when I think of all the rascal foot-archers who are 
waiting there, for some folk have no grace or honesty in 
their souls, and cannot keep their hands from that which 
belongs to another. But if I may throw my leg over yonder 
spare horse I will come on with you, fair sir, for indeed it 
would be joy to my heart to know that I was riding under 
your banner once again." 

So Aylward, having given instructions to the bearer of 
his feather-bed, rode away in spite of shrill protests from 
his French companions, who speedily consoled themselves 
with those of his comrades who seemed to have most to 
give. Nigel's party was soon clear of the column of archers 
and riding hard in the direction of the Prince's army. They 
passed by a narrow and winding track, through the great 
wood of Nouaille, and found before them a marshy valley 
down which ran a sluggish stream. Along its farther bank 



Called to his Master 307 

hundreds of horses were being watered, and beyond was 
a dense block of wagons. Through these the comrades 
passed, and then topped a small mound from which the 
whole strange scene lay spread before them. 

Down the valley the slow stream meandered with marshy 
meadows on either side. A mile or two lower a huge drove 
of horses were to be seen assembled upon the bank. They 
were the steeds of the French cavalry, and the blue haze 
of a hundred fires showed where King John's men were 
camping. In front of the mound upon which they stood 
the English line was drawn, but there were few fires, for 
indeed, save their horses, there was little for them to cook. 
Their right rested upon the river, and their array stretched 
across a mile of ground until the left was in touch with 
a tangled forest which guarded it from flank attack. In 
front was a long thick hedge and much broken ground, 
with a single deeply rutted country road cutting through 
it in the middle. Under the hedge and along the whole front 
of the position lay swarms of archers upon the grass, 
the greater number slumbering peacefully with sprawling 
limbs in the warm rays of the September sun. Behind 
were the quarters of the various knights, and from end 
to end flew the banners and pennons marked with the de- 
vices of the chivalry of England and Guienne. 

With a glow in his heart Nigel saw those badges of fa- 
mous captains and leaders and knew that now at last he 
also might show his coat-armor in such noble company. 
There was the flag of Jean Grailly, the Captal de Buch, five 
silver shells on a black cross, which marked the presence 
of the most famous soldier of Gascony, while beside it 
waved the red lion of the noble Knight of Hainault, Sir 
Eustace d'Ambreticourt. These two coats Nigel knew, as 
did every warrior in Europe, but a dense grove of pennoned 
lances surrounded them, bearing charges which were 
strange to him, from which he understood that these be- 
longed to the Guienne division of the army. Farther down 
the line the famous English ensigns floated on the wind, the 
scarlet and gold of Warwick, the silver star of Oxford, the 
golden cross of Suffolk, the blue and gold of Willoughby, 
and the gold-fretted scarlet of Audley. In the very center 



308 Sir Nigel 

of them all was one which caused all others to pass from 
his mind, for close to the royal banner of England, crossed 
with the label of the Prince, there waved the war-worn 
flag with the red wedge upon the golden field which marked 
the quarters of the noble Chandos. 

At the sight Nigel set spurs to his horse, and a few min- 
utes later had reached the spot. Chandos, gaunt from hun- 
ger and want of sleep, but with the old fire lurking in his 
eye, was standing by the Prince's tent, gazing down at what 
could be seen of the French array, and heavy with thought. 
Nigel sprang from his horse and was within touch of his 
master when the silken hanging of the royal tent was torn 
violently aside and Edward rushed out. 

He was without his armor and clad in a sober suit of 
black, but the high dignity of his bearing and the impe- 
rious anger which flushed his face proclaimed the leader 
and the Prince. At his heels was a little white-haired ec- 
clesiastic in a flowing gown of scarlet sendal, expostulating 
and arguing in a torrent of words. 

" Not another word, my Lord Cardinal," cried the angry 
prince. " I have listened to you overlong, and by God's 
dignity! that which you say is neither good nor fair in my 
ears. Hark you, John, I would have your counsel. What 
think you is the message which my Lord Cardinal of Peri- 
gord has carried from the King of France? He says that 
of his clemency he will let my army pass back to Bordeaux 
if we will restore to him all that we have taken, remit all 
ransoms, and surrender my own person with that of a hun- 
dred nobles of England and Guienne to be held as prisoners. 
What think you, John? " 

Chandos smiled. " Things are not done in that fashion," 
said he. 

" But my Lord Chandos/' cried the Cardinal, " I have 
made it clear to the Prince that indeed it is a scandal to all 
Christendom and a cause of mocking to the heathen, that 
two great sons of the Church should turn their swords thus 
upon each other." 

" Then bid the King of France keep clear of us," said the 
Prince. 

" Fair son, you are aware that you are in the heart of 



Called to his Master 309 

his country and that it standeth not aright that he should 
suffer you to go forth as you came. You have but a small 
army, three thousand bowmen and five thousand men-at- 
arms at the most, who seem in evil case for want of food 
and rest. The King has thirty thousand men at his back, 
of which twenty thousand are expert men-at-arms. It is 
fitting therefore that you make such terms as you may, lest 
worse befall." 

" Give my greetings to the King of France and tell him 
that England will never pay ransom for me. But it seems 
to me, my Lord Cardinal, that you have our numbers and 
condition very ready upon your tongue, and I would fain 
know how the eye of a Churchman can read a line of bat- 
tle so easily. I have seen that these knights of your house- 
hold have walked freely to and fro within our camp, and 
I much fear that when I welcomed you as envoys I have in 
truth given my protection to spies. How say you, my Lord 
Cardinal?" 

" Fair Prince, I know not how you can find it in your 
heart or conscience to say such evil words." 

" There is this red-bearded nephew of thine, Robert de 
Duras. See where he stands yonder, counting and prying. 
Hark hither, young sir ! I have been saying to your uncle 
the Cardinal that it is in my mind that you and your com- 
rades have carried news of our dispositions to the French 
King. How say you ? " 

The knight turned pale and sank his eyes. " My lord," 
he murmured, " it may be that I have answered some ques- 
tions." 

" And how will such answers accord with your honor, 
seeing that we have trusted you since you came in the train 
of the Cardinal?" 

" My lord, it is true that I am in the train of the Car- 
dinal, and yet I am liege man of King John and a knight 
of France, so I pray you to assuage your wrath against 
me." 

The Prince ground his teeth and his piercing eyes blazed 
upon the youth. " By my father's soul ! I can scarce for- 
bear to strike you to the earth ! But this I promise you, that 
if you show that sign of the Red Griffin in the field and if 



310 Sir Nigel 

you be taken alive in to-morrow's battle, your head shall 
most assuredly be shorn from your shoulders." 

" Fair son, indeed you speak wildly," cried the Cardinal. 
" I pledge you my word that neither my nephew Robert 
nor any of my train will take part in the battle. And now 
I leave you, sire, and may God assoil your soul, for indeed 
in all this world no men stand in greater peril than you 
and those who are around you, and I rede you that you 
spend the night in such ghostly exercises as may best pre- 
pare you for that which may befall." So saying the Car- 
dinal bowed, and with his household walking behind him 
set off for the spot where they had left their horses, whence 
they rode to the neighboring Abbey. 

The angry Prince turned upon his heel and entered his 
tent once more, whilst Chandos, glancing round, held out 
a warm welcoming hand to Nigel. 

" I have heard much of your noble deeds," said he. " Al- 
ready your name rises as a squire errant. I stood no higher, 
nor so high, at your age." 

Nigel flushed with pride and pleasure. " Indeed, my 
dear lord, it is very little that I have done. But now that 
I am back at your side I hope that in truth I shall learn 
to bear myself in worthy fashion, for where else should I 
win honor if it be not under your banner." 

" Truly, Nigel, you have come at a very good time for 
advancement. I cannot see how we can leave this spot 
without a great battle which will live in men's minds for- 
ever. In all our rights in France I cannot call to mind any 
in which they have been so strong or we so weak as now, 
so that there will be the more honor to be gained. I would 
that we had two thousand more archers. But I doubt 
not that we shall give them much trouble ere they drive us 
out from amidst these hedges. Have you seen the French ? " 

" Nay, fair sir, I have but this moment arrived." 

" I was about to ride forth myself to coast their army 
and observe their countenance, so come with me ere the 
night fall, and we shall see what we can of their order and 
dispositions." 

There was a truce betwixt the two forces for the day, on 
account of the ill-advised and useless interposition of the 



Called to his Master 311 

Cardinal of Perigord. Hence when Chandos and Nigel had 
pushed their horses through the long hedge which fronted 
the position they found that many small parties of the 
knights of either army were riding up and down on the 
plain outside. The greater number of these groups were 
French, since it was very necessary for them to know as 
much as possible of the English defenses ; and many of their 
scouts had ridden up to within a hundred yards of the 
hedge, where they were sternly ordered back by the pickets 
of archers on guard. 

Through these scattered knots of horsemen Chandos rode, 
and as many of them were old antagonists it was " Ha, 
John!" on the one side, and "Ha, Raoul!" "Ha, Nicho- 
las ! " " Ha, Guichard ! " upon the other, as they brushed 
past them. Only one cavalier greeted them amiss, a large, 
red-faced man, the Lord Clermont, who by some strange 
chance bore upon his surcoat a blue virgin standing amid 
golden sunbeams, which was the very device which Chan- 
dos had donned for the day. The fiery Frenchman dashed 
across their path and drew his steed back on to its haunches. 

" How long is it, my Lord Chandos," said he hotly, " since 
you have taken it upon yourself to wear my arms ? " 

Chandos smiled. " It is surely you who have mine," said 
he, "since this surcoat was worked for me by the good nuns 
of Windsor a long year ago." 

"If it were not for the truce," said Clermont, " I would 
soon show you that you have no right to wear it." 

" Look for it then in the battle to-morrow, and I also 
will look for yours," Chandos answered. " There we can 
very honorably settle the matter." 

But the Frenchman was choleric and hard to appease. 
" You English can invent nothing," said he, " and you take 
for your own whatever you see handsome belonging to 
others." So, grumbling and fuming, he rode upon his way, 
while Chandos, laughing gayly, spurred onward across the 
plain. 

The immediate front of the English line was shrouded 
with scattered trees and bushes which hid the enemy; but 
when they had cleared these a fair view of the great French 
army lay before them. In the center of the huge camp was 



312 Sir Nigel 

a long and high pavilion of red silk, with the silver lilies 
of the King at one end of it, and the golden oriflamme, the 
battle-flag of old France, at the other. Like the reeds of 
a pool from side to side of the broad array, and dwindling 
away as far as their eyes could see, were the banners and 
pennons of high barons and famous knights, but above them 
all flew the ducal standards which showed that the feudal 
muster of all the warlike provinces of France was in the 
field before them. 

With a kindling eye Chandos looked across at the proud 
ensigns of Normandy, or Burgundy, of Auvergne, of Cham- 
pagne, of Vermandois, and of Berry, flaunting and gleam- 
ing in the rays of the sinking sun. Riding slowly down the 
line he marked with attentive gaze the camp of the cross- 
bowmen, the muster of the German mercenaries, the num- 
bers of the foot-soldiers, the arms of every proud vassal 
or vavasor which might give some guide as to the power 
of each division. From wing to wing and round the flanks 
he went, keeping ever within crossbow-shot of the army, 
and then at last having noted all things in his mind he turned 
his horse's head and rode slowly back, heavy with thought, 
to the English lines. 



XXV 

HOW THE KING OF FRANCE HELD COUNSEL 
AT MAUPERTUIS 

THE morning of Sunday, the nineteenth of Septem- 
ber, in the year of our Lord 1356, was cold and 
fine. A haze which rose from the marshy valley 
of Muisson covered both camps and set the starving Eng- 
lishmen shivering, but it cleared slowly away as the sun 
rose. In the red silken pavilion of the French King the 
same which had been viewed by Nigel and Chandos the 
evening before a solemn mass was held by the Bishop of 
Chalons, who prayed for those who were about to die, with 
little thought in his mind that his own last hour was so near 
at hand. Then, when communion had been taken by the 
King and his four young sons the altar was cleared away, 
and a great red-covered table placed lengthwise down the 
tent, round which John might assemble his council and de- 
termine how best he should proceed. With the silken roof, 
rich tapestries of Arras round the walls and Eastern rugs 
beneath the feet, his palace could furnish no fairer chamber. 
King John, who sat upon the canopied dais at the upper 
end, was now in the sixth year of his reign and the thirty- 
sixth of his life. He was a short burly man, ruddy-faced 
and deep-chested, with dark kindly eyes and a most noble 
bearing. It did not need the blue cloak sewed with silver 
lilies to mark him as the King. Though his reign had been 
short, his fame was already widespread over all Europe 
as a kindly gentleman and a fearless soldier a fit leader 
for a chivalrous nation. His elder son, the Duke of Nor- 
mandy, still hardly more than a boy, stood beside him, his 
hand upon the King's shoulder, and John half turned from 
time to time to fondle him. On the right, at the same high 
dais, was the King's younger brother, the Duke of Orleans, 
a pale heavy-featured man, with a languid manner and in- 



314 Sir Nigel 

tolerant eyes. On the left was the Duke of Bourbon, sad- 
faced and absorbed, with that gentle melancholy in his eyes 
and bearing which comes often with the premonition of 
death. All these were in their armor, save only for their 
helmets, which lay upon the board before them. 

Below, grouped around the long red table, was an assem- 
bly of the most famous warriors in Europe. At the end 
nearest the King was the veteran soldier the Duke of Athens, 
son of a banished father, and now High Constable of 
France. On one side of him sat the red-faced and choleric 
Lord Clermont, with the same blue Virgin in golden rays 
upon his surcoat which had caused his quarrel with Chan- 
dos the night before. On the other was a noble-featured 
grizzly-haired soldier, Arnold d'Andre?hen, who shared with 
Clermont the honor of being Marshal of France. Next to 
them sat Lord James of Bourbon, a brave warrior who was 
afterwards slain by the White Company at Brignais, and be- 
side him a little group of German noblemen, including the 
Earl of Salzburg and the Earl of Nassau, who had ridden 
over the frontier with their formidable mercenaries at the 
bidding of the French King. The ridged armor and the 
hanging nasals of their bassinets were enough in themselves 
to tell every soldier that they were from beyond the Rhine. 
At the other side of the table were a line of proud and war- 
like Lords, Fiennes, Chatillon, Nesle, de Landas, de Beaujeu, 
with the fierce knight errant de Chargny, he who had 
planned the surprise of Calais, and Eustace de Ribeaumont, 
who had upon the same occasion won the prize of valor from 
the hands of Edward of England. Such were the chiefs 
to whom the King now turned for assistance and advice. 

" You have already heard, my friends," said he, " that 
the Prince of Wales has made no answer to the proposal 
which we sent by the Lord Cardinal of Perigord. Certes 
this is as it should be, and though I have obeyed the call 
of Holy Church I had no fears that so excellent a Prince 
as Edward of England would refuse to meet us in battle. 
I am now of opinion that we should fall upon them at once, 
lest perchance the Cardinal's cross should again come be- 
twixt our swords and our enemies." 

A buzz of joyful assent arose from the meeting, and even 



The King of France held Council 315 

from the attendant men-at-arms who guarded the door. 
When it had died away the Duke of Orleans rose in his 
place beside the King. 

" Sire/' said he, " you speak as we would have you do, 
and I for one am of opinion that the Cardinal of Perigord 
has been an ill friend of France, for why should we bar- 
gain for a part when we have but to hold out our hand in 
order to grasp the whole ? What need is there for words ? 
Let us spring to horse forthwith and ride over this handful 
of marauders who have dared to lay waste your fair do- 
minions. If one of them go hence save as our prisoner we 
are the more to blame." 

" By Saint Denis, brother ! " said the King, smiling, " if 
words could slay you would have had them all upon their 
backs ere ever we left Chartres. You are new to war, but 
when you have had experience of a stricken field or two you 
would know that things must be done with forethought and 
in order or they may go awry. In our father's time we 
sprang to horse and spurred upon these English at Crecy 
and elsewhere as you advise, but we had little profit from 
it, and now we are grown wiser. How say you, Sieur de 
Ribeaumont? You have coasted their lines and observed 
their countenance. Would you ride down upon them, as 
my brother has advised, or how would you order the mat- 
ter?" 

De Ribeaumont, a tall dark-eyed handsome man, paused 
ere he answered. " Sire," he said at last, " I have indeed 
ridden along their front and down their flanks, in company 
with Lord Landas and Lord de Beaujeu, who are here at 
your council to witness to what I say. Indeed, sire, it is 
in my mind that though the English are few in number yet 
they are in such a position amongst these hedges and vines 
that you would be well-advised if you were to leave them 
alone, for they have no food and must retreat, so that you 
will be able to follow them and to fight them to better ad- 
vantage." 

A murmur of disapproval rose from the company, and the 
Lord Clermont, Marshal of the army, sprang to his feet, 
his face red with anger. 

" Eustace, Eustace," said he, " I bear in mind the days 



316 Sir Nigel 

when you were of great heart and high enterprise, but since 
King Edward gave you yonder chaplet of pearls you have 
ever been backward against the English ! " 

" My Lord Clermont," said de Ribeaumont sternly, " it 
is not for me to brawl at the King's council and in the face 
of the enemy, but we will go further into this matter at some 
other time. Meanwhile, the King has asked me for my 
advice and I have given it as best I might." 

" It had been better for your honor, Sir Eustace, had you 
held your peace," said the Duke of Orleans. " Shall we let 
them slip from our ringers when we have them here and are 
fourfold their number? I know not where we should dwell 
afterwards, for I am very sure that we should be ashamed 
to ride back to Paris, or to look our ladies in the eyes again." 

" Indeed, Eustace, you have done well to say what is in 
your mind," said the King ; " but I have already said that 
we shall join battle this morning, so that there is no room 
here for further talk. But I would fain have heard from 
you how it would be wisest and best that we attack them ? " 

" I will advise you, sire, to the best of my power. Upon 
their right is a river with marshes around it, and upon their 
left a great wood, so that we can advance only upon the 
center. Along their front is a thick hedge, and behind it 
I saw the green jerkins of their archers, as thick as the 
sedges by the river. It is broken by one road where only 
four horsemen could ride abreast, which leads through the 
position. It is clear then that if we are to drive them back 
we must cross the great hedge, and I am very sure that the 
horses will not face it with such a storm of arrows beating 
from behind it. Therefore, it is my council that we fight 
upon foot, as the English did at Crecy, for indeed we may 
find that our horses will be more hindrance than help to 
us this day." 

"The same thought was in my "own mind, sire," said 
Arnold d'Andreghen the veteran Marshal. " At Crecy the 
bravest had to turn their backs, for what can a man do 
with a horse which is mad with pain and fear? If we ad- 
vance upon foot we are our own masters, and if we stop 
the shame is ours." 

" The counsel is good," said the Duke of Athens, turning 



The King of France held Council 317 

his shrewd wizened face to the King ; " but one thing only 
I would add to it. The strength of these people lies in 
their archers, and if we could throw them into disorder, 
were it only for a short time, we should win the hedge ; else 
they will shoot so strongly that we must lose many men 
before we reach it, for indeed we have learned that no armor 
will keep out their shafts when they are close." 

(< Your words, fair sir, are both good and wise," said the 
King, " but I pray you to tell us how you would throw 
these archers into disorder ? " 

" I would choose three hundred horsemen, sire, the best 
and most forward in the army. With these I would ride 
up the narrow road, and so turn to right and left, falling 
upon the archers behind the hedge. It may be that the 
three hundred would suffer sorely, but what are they among 
so great a host, if a road may be cleared for their com- 
panions ? " 

" I would say a word to that, sire," cried the German 
Count of Nassau, " I have come here with my comrades 
to venture our persons in your quarrel; but we claim the 
right to fight in our own fashion, and we would count it 
dishonor to dismount from our steeds out of fear of the 
arrows of the English. Therefore, with your permission, 
we will ride to the front, as the Duke of Athens has advised, 
and so clear a path for the rest of you." 

" This may not be ! " cried the Lord Clermont angrily. 
" It would be strange indeed if Frenchmen could not be 
found to clear a path for the army of the King of France. 
One would think to hear you talk, my Lord Count, that 
your hardihood was greater than our own, but by our 
Lady of Rocamadour you will learn before nightfall that 
it is not so. It is for me, who am a Marshal of France, 
to lead these three hundred, since it is an honorable 
venture." 

" And I claim the same right for the same reason," said 
Arnold of Andreghen. 

The German Count struck the table with his mailed fist. 
" Do what you like! " said he. " But this only I can prom- 
ise you, that neither I nor any of my German riders will 
descend from our horses so long as they are able to carry 



318 Sir Nigel 

us, for in our country it is only people of no consequence 
who fight upon their feet." 

The Lord Clermont was leaning angrily forward with 
some hot reply when King John intervened. " Enough, 
enough ! " he said. " It is for you to give your opinions, 
and for me to tell you what you will do. Lord Clermont, 
and you, Arnold, you will choose three hundred of the brav- 
est cavaliers in the army and you will endeavor to break 
these archers. As to you and your Germans, my Lord Nas- 
sau, you will remain upon horseback, since you desire it, 
and you will follow the Marshals and support them as best 
you may. The rest of the army will advance upon foot, in 
three other divisions as arranged : yours, Charles," and he 
patted his son, the Duke of Normandy, affectionately upon 
the hand ; " yours, Philip," he glanced at the Duke of Or- 
leans ; " and the main battle which is my own. To you, 
Geoffrey de Chargny, I intrust the oriflamme this day. But 
who is this knight and what does he desire ? " 

A young knight, ruddy-bearded and tall, a red grifBn 
upon his surcoat, had appeared in the opening of the tent. 
His flushed face and disheveled dress snowed that he had 
come in haste. " Sire," said he, " I am Robert de Duras, of 
the household of the Cardinal de Perigord. I have told you 
yesterday all that I have learned of the English camp. This 
morning I was again admitted to it, and I have seen their 
wagons moving to the rear. Sire, they are in flight for 
Bordeaux." 

" 'Fore God, I knew it ! " cried the Duke of Orleans in 
a voice of fury. " Whilst we have been talking they have 
slipped through our fingers. Did I not warn you ? " 

" Be silent, Philip! " said the King angrily. " But you, 
sir, have you seen this with your own eyes ? " 

" With my own eyes, sire, and I have ridden straight from 
their camp." 

King John looked at him with a stern gaze. " I know not 
how it accords with your honor to carry such tidings in 
such a fashion," said he ; " but we cannot choose but take 
advantage of it. Fear not, brother Philip, it is in my mind 
that you will see all that you would wish of the English- 
men before nightfall. Should we fall upon them whilst they 



The King of France held Council 319 

cross the ford it will be to our advantage. Now, fair sirs, 
I pray you to hasten to your posts and to carry out all that 
we have agreed. Advance the oriflamme, Geoffrey, and do 
you marshal the divisions, Arnold. So may God and Saint 
Denis have us in their holy keeping this day ! " 

The Prince of Wales stood upon that little knoll where 
Nigel had halted the day before. Beside him were Chandos, 
and a tall sun-burned warrior of middle age, the Gascon 
Captal de Buch. The three men were all attentively watch- 
ing the distant French lines, while behind them a column 
of wagons wound down to the ford of the Muisson. 

Close in the rear four knights in full armor with open 
visors sat their horses and conversed in undertones with 
each other. A glance at their shields would have given 
their names to any soldier, for they were all men of fame 
who had seen much warfare. At present they were await- 
ing their orders, for each of them commanded the whole 
or part of a division of the army. The youth upon the left, 
dark, slim and earnest, was William Montacute, Earl of 
Salisbury, only twenty-eight years of age and yet a veteran 
of Crecy. How high he stood in reputation is shown by 
the fact that the command of the rear, the post of honor 
in a retreating army, had been given to him by the Prince. 
He was talking to a grizzled harsh-faced man, somewhat 
over middle age, with lion features and fierce light-blue eyes 
which gleamed as they watched the distant enemy. It was 
the famous Robert de Ufford, Earl of Suffolk, who had 
fought without a break from Cadsand onward through the 
whole Continental War. The other tall silent soldier, with 
the silver star gleaming upon his surcoat, was John de Vere, 
Earl of Oxford, and he listened to the talk of Thomas Beau- 
champ, a burly, jovial, ruddy nobleman and a tried soldier, 
who leaned forward and tapped his mailed hand upon the 
other's steel-clad thigh. They were old battle-companions, 
of the same age and in the very prime of life, with equal 
fame and equal experience of the wars. Such was the group 
of famous English soldiers who sat their horses behind the 
Prince and waited for their orders. 

" I would that you had laid hands upon him," said the 



320 Sir Nigel 

Prince angrily, continuing his conversation with Chandos, 
" and yet, perchance, it was wiser to play this trick and make 
them think that we were retreating." 

" He has certainly carried the tidings," said Chandos, with 
a smile. " No sooner had the wagons started than I saw 
him gallop down the edge of the wood." 

" It was well thought of, John," the Prince remarked, 
" for it would indeed be great comfort if we could turn 
their own spy against them. Unless they advance upon 
us, I know not how we can hold out another day, for there 
is not a loaf left in the army ; and yet if we leave this posi- 
tion where shall we hope to find such another ? " 

" They will stoop, fair sir, they will stoop to our lure. 
Even now Robert de Duras will be telling them that the 
wagons are on the move, and they will hasten to overtake 
us lest we pass the ford. But who is this, who rides so fast ? 
Here perchance may be tidings." 

A horseman had spurred up to the knoll. He sprang 
from the saddle, and sank on one knee before the Prince. 

" How now, my Lord Audley," said Edward. " What 
would you have ? " 

" Sir," said the knight, still kneeling with bowed head 
before his leader, " I have a boon to ask of you." 

" Nay, James, rise ! Let me hear what I can do." 

The famous knight errant, pattern of chivalry for all 
time, rose and turned his swarthy face and dark earnest eyes 
upon his master. " Sir," said he, " I have ever served most 
loyally my lord your father and yourself, and shall continue 
so to do so long as I have life. Dear sir, I must now ac- 
quaint you that formerly I made a vow if ever I should be 
in any battle under your command that I would be foremost 
or die in the attempt. I beg therefore that you will gra- 
ciously permit me to honorably quit my place among the 
others, that I may post myself in such wise as to accom- 
plish my vow." 

The Prince smiled, for it was very sure that vow or no 
vow, permission or no permission, Lord James Audley 
would still be in the van. " Go, James," said he, shaking 
his hand, " and God grant that this day you may shine inj 
valor above all knights, But hark, John, what \* that?" 



The King of France held Council 321 

Chandos cast up his fierce nose like the eagle which smells 
slaughter afar. " Surely, sir, all is forming even as we had 
planned it." 

From far away there came a thunderous shout. Then 
another and yet another. 

" See, they are moving ! " cried the Captal de Buch. 

All morning they had watched the gleam of the armed 
squadrons who were drawn up in front of the French camp. 
Now whilst a great blare of trumpets was borne to their 
ears, the distant masses flickered and twinkled in the sun- 
light. 

(< Yes, yes, they are moving ! " cried the Prince. 

" They are moving! They are moving! " Down the line 
the murmur ran. And then with a sudden impulse the arch- 
ers at the hedge sprang to their feet and the knights be- 
hind them waved their weapons in the air, while one tre- 
mendous shout of warlike joy carried their defiance to the 
approaching enemy. Then there fell such a silence that 
the pawing of the horses or the jingle of their harness struck 
loud upon the ear, until amid the hush there rose a low deep 
roar like the sound of the tide upon the beach, ever growing 
and deepening as the host of France drew near. 



XXVI 

HOW NIGEL FOUND HIS THIRD DEED 

FOUR archers lay behind a clump of bushes ten yards 
in front of the thick hedge which shielded their com- 
panions. Amid the long line of bowmen those behind 
them were their own company, and in the main the same who 
were with Knolles in Brittany. The four in front were their 
leaders: old Wat of Carlisle, Ned Widdington the red- 
headed Dalesman, the bald bowyer Bartholomew, and Sam- 
kin Alyward, newly rejoined after a week's absence. All 
four were munching bread and apples, for Aylward had 
brought in a full haversack and divided them freely amongst 
his starving comrades. The old Borderer and the York- 
shireman were gaunt and hollow-eyed with privation, while 
the bowyer's round face had fallen in so that the skin hung 
in loose pouches under his eyes and beneath his jaws. 

Behind them lines of haggard, wolfish men glared through 
the underwood, silent and watchful save that they burst 
into a fierce yelp of welcome when Chandos and Nigel gal- 
loped up, sprang from their horses and took their station 
beneath them. All along the green fringe of bowmen might 
be seen the steel-clad figures of knights and squires who 
had pushed their way into the front line to share the for- 
tune of the archers. 

" I call to mind that I once shot six ends with a Kentish 
woldsman at Ashford " began the Bowyer. 

" Nay, nay, we have heard that story ! " said old Wat 
impatiently. " Shut thy clap, Bartholomew, for it is no 
time for redeless gossip ! Walk down the line, I pray you, 
and see if there be no frayed string, nor broken nock nor 
loosened whipping to be mended." 

The stout bowyer passed down the fringe of bowmen, 
amidst a running fire of rough wit. Here and there a bow 

323 



Nigel Found his Third Deed 323 

was thrust out at him through the hedge for his professional 
advice. 

" Wax your heads ! " he kept crying. " Pass down the 
wax-pot and wax your heads. A waxed arrow will pass 
where a dry will be held. Tom Beverley, you jack-fool! 
where is your bracer-guard ? Your string will flay your arm 
ere you reach your up-shot this day. And you, Watkin, 
draw not to your mouth, as is your wont, but to your shoul- 
der. You are so used to the wine-pot that the string must 
needs follow it. Nay, stand loose, and give space for your 
drawing arms, for they will be on us anon." 

He ran back and joined his comrades in the front, who 
had now risen to their feet. Behind them a half-mile of 
archers stood behind the hedge, each with his great war- 
bow strung, half a dozen shafts loose behind him, and 
eighteen more in the quiver slung across his front. With 
arrow on string, their feet firm-planted, their fierce eager 
faces peering through the branches, they awaited the com- 
ing storm. 

The broad flood of steel, after oozing slowly forward, 
had stopped about a mile from the English front. The 
greater part of the army had then descended from their 
horses, while a crowd of varlets and hostlers led them to 
the rear. The French formed themselves now into three 
great divisions, which shimmered in the sun like silvery 
pools, reed-capped with many a thousand of banners and 
pennons. A space of several hundred yards divided each. 
At the same time two bodies of horsemen formed themselves 
in front. The first consisted of three hundred men in one 
thick column, the second of a thousand, riding in a more 
extended line. 

The Prince had ridden up to the line of archers. He was 
in dark armor, his visor open, and his handsome aquiline 
face all glowing with spirit and martial fire. The bowmen 
yelled at him, and he waved his hands to them as a hunts- 
man cheers his hounds. 

" Well, John, what think you now? " he asked. " What 
would my noble father not give to be by our side this day? 
Have you seen that they have left their horses?" 

" Yes, my fair lord, they have learned their lesson," said 



324 Sir Nigel 

Chandos. " Because we have had good fortune upon our 
feet at Crecy and elsewhere they think that they have found 
the trick of it. But it is in my mind that it is very different 
to stand when you are assailed, as we have done, and to 
assail others when you must drag your harness for a mile 
and come weary to the fray." 

" You speak wisely, John. But these horsemen who form 
in front and ride slowly towards us, what make you of 
them?" 

" Doubtless they hope to cut the strings of our bowmen 
and so clear a way for the others. But they are indeed a 
chosen band, for mark you, fair sir, are not those the colors 
of Clermont upon the left, and of d'Andreghen upon the 
right, so that both marshals ride with the vanguard ? " 

" By God's soul, John ! " cried the Prince, " it is very sure 
that you can see more with one eye than any man in this 
army with two. But it is even as you say. And this larger 
band behind?" 

" They should be Germans, fair sir, by the fashion of their 
harness." 

The two bodies of horsemen had moved slowly over the 
plain, with a space of nearly a quarter of a mile between 
them. Now, having come two bowshots from the hostile 
line, they halted. All that they could see of the English was 
the long hedge, with an occasional twinkle of steel through 
its leafy branches, and behind that the spear-heads of the 
men-at-arms rising from amidst the brushwood and the 
vines. A lovely autumn countryside with changing many- 
tinted foliage lay stretched before them, all bathed in peace- 
ful sunshine, and nothing save those flickering fitful gleams 
to tell of the silent and lurking enemy who barred their way. 
But the bold spirit of the French cavaliers rose the higher 
to the danger. The clamor of their war-cries filled the air, 
and they tossed their pennoned spears over their heads in 
menace and defiance. From the English line it was a noble 
sight, the gallant, pawing, curveting horses, the many-col- 
ored twinkling riders, the swoop and wave and toss of plume 
and banner. 

Then a bugle rang forth. With a sudden yell every spur 
struck deep, every lance was laid in rest, and the whole 



Nigel Found his Third Deed 325 

gallant squadron flew like a glittering thunderbolt for the 
center of the English line. 

A hundred yards they had crossed, and yet another hun- 
dred, but there was no movement in front of them, and no 
sound save their own hoarse battle-cries and the thunder 
of their horses. Ever swifter and swifter they flew. From 
behind the hedge it was a vision of horses, white, bay and 
black, their necks stretched, their nostrils distended, their 
bellies to the ground, whilst of the rider one could but see 
a shield with a plume-tufted visor above it, and a spear-head 
twinkling in front. 

Then of a sudden the Prince raised his hand and gave 
a cry. Chandos echoed it, it swelled down the line, and with 
one mighty chorus of twanging strings and hissing shafts 
the long-pent storm broke at last. 

Alas for the noble steeds! Alas for the gallant men! 
When the lust of battle is over who would not grieve to see 
that noble squadron break into red ruin before the rain of 
arrows beating upon the faces and breasts of the horses? 
The front rank crashed down, and the others piled them- 
selves upon the top of them, unable to check their speed, or 
to swerve aside from the terrible wall of their shattered 
comrades which had so suddenly sprung up before them. 
Fifteen feet high was that blood-spurting mound of scream- 
ing, kicking horses and writhing, struggling men. Here 
and there on the flanks a horseman cleared himself and 
dashed for the hedge, only to have his steed slain under 
him and to be hurled from his saddle. Of all the three 
hundred gallant riders, not one ever reached that fatal 
hedge. 

But now in a long rolling wave of steel the German bat- 
talion roared swiftly onward. They opened in the center 
to pass that terrible mound of death, and then spurred 
swiftly in upon the archers. They were brave men, well- 
led, and in their open lines they could avoid the clubbing 
together which had been the ruin of the vanguard; yet 
they perished singly even as the others had perished to- 
gether. A few were slain by the arrows. The greater 
number had their horses killed under them, and were so 
shaken and shattered by the fall that they could not 



326 Sir Nigel 

raise their limbs, overweighted with iron, from the spot 
where they lay. 

Three men riding together broke through the bushes 
which sheltered the leaders of the archers, cut down Wid- 
dington the Dalesman, spurred onward through the hedge, 
dashed over the bowmen behind it, and made for the Prince. 
One fell with an arrow through his head, a second was 
beaten from his saddle by Chandos, and the third was slain 
by the Prince's own hand. A second band broke through 
near the river, but were cut off by Lord Audley and his 
squires, so that all were slain. A single horseman whose 
steed was mad with pain, an arrow in its eye and a second 
in its nostril, sprang over the hedge and clattered through 
the whole army, disappearing amid whoops and laughter 
into the woods behind. But none others won as far as the 
hedge. The whole front of the position was fringed with 
a litter of German wounded or dead, while one great heap 
in the center marked the downfall of the gallant French 
three hundred. 

Whilst these two waves of the attack had broken in front 
of the English position, leaving this blood-stained wreckage 
behind them, the main divisions had halted and made their 
last preparations for their own assault. They had not yet 
begun their advance, and the nearest was still half a mile 
distant, when the few survivors from the forlorn hope, their 
maddened horses bristling with arrows, flew past them on 
either flank. 

At the same moment the English archers and men-at- 
arms dashed through the hedge, and dragged all who were 
living out of that tangled heap of shattered horses and men. 
It was a mad wild rush, for in a few minutes the fight 
must be renewed, and yet there was a rich harvest of wealth 
for the lucky man who could pick a wealthy prisoner from 
amid the crowd. The nobler spirits disdained to think of 
ransoms whilst the fight was still unsettled; but a swarm 
of needy soldiers, Gascons and English, dragged the 
wounded out by the leg or the arm, and with daggers at 
their throats demanded their names, title and means. He 
who had made a good prize hurried him to the rear where 
his own servants could guard him, while he who was dis- 



Nigel Found his Third Deed 327 

appointed too often drove the dagger home and then rushed 
once more into the tangle in the hope of better Inck. Cler- 
mont, with an arrow through the sky-blue Virgin on his 
surcoat, lay dead within ten paces of 'the hedge; d'Andre- 
ghen was dragged by a penniless squire from under a horse 
and became his prisoner. The Earl of Salzburg and of 
Nassau were both found helpless on the ground and taken 
to the rear. Aylward cast his thick arms round Count Otto 
von Langenbeck, and laid him, helpless from a broken leg, 
behind his bush. Black Simon had made prize of Bernard, 
Count of Ventadour, and hurried him through the hedge. 
Everywhere there was rushing and shouting, brawling and 
buffeting, while amidst it all a swarm of archers were seek- 
ing their shafts, plucking them from the dead, and some- 
times even from the wounded. Then there was a sudden 
cry of warning. In a moment every man was back in his 
place once more, and the line of the hedge was clear. 

It was high time ; for already the first division of the 
French was close upon them. If the charge of the horse- 
men had been terrible from its rush and its fire, this steady 
advance of a huge phalanx of armored footmen was even 
more fearsome to the spectator. They moved very slowly, 
on account of the weight of their armor, but their progress 
'was the more regular and inexorable. With elbows touch- 
ing their shields slung in front, their short five-foot spears 
carried in their right hands, and their maces or swords ready 
at their belts, the deep column of men-at-arms moved on- 
ward. Again the storm of arrows beat upon them clinking 
and thudding on the armor. They crouched double be- 
hind their shields as they met it. Many fell, but still the 
slow tide lapped onward. Yelling, they surged up to the 
hedge, and lined it for half a mile, struggling hard to 
pierce it. 

For five minutes the long straining ranks faced each other 
with fierce stab of spear on one side and heavy beat of ax 
or mace upon the other. In many parts the hedge was 
pierced or leveled to the ground, and the French men-at- 
arms were raging amongst the archers, hacking and hewing 
among the lightly armed men. For a moment it seemed as 
if the battle was on the turn. 



328 Sir Nigel 

But John de Vere, Earl of Oxford, cool, wise and crafty 
in war, saw and seized his chance. On the right flank a 
marshy meadow skirted the river. So soft was it that a 
heavily-armed man would sink to his knees. At his order 
a spray of light bowmen was thrown out from the battle- 
line and forming upon the flank of the French poured their 
arrows into them. At the same moment Chandos, with 
Audley, Nigel, Bartholomew Burghersh, the Captal de 
Buch, and a score of other knights sprang upon their horses, 
and charging down the narrow lane rode over the French 
line in front of them. Once through it they spurred to left 
and right, trampling down the dismounted men-at-arms. 

A fearsome sight was Pommers that day, his red eyes 
rolling, his nostrils gaping, his tawny mane tossing, and his 
savage teeth gnashing in fury, as he tore and smashed and 
ground beneath his ramping hoofs all that came before him. 
Fearsome too was the rider, ice-cool, alert, concentrated of 
purpose, with heart of fire and muscles of steel. A very 
angel of battle he seemed as he drove his maddened horse 
through the thickest of the press, but strive as he would 
the tall figure of his master upon his coal-black steed was 
ever half a length before him. 

Already the moment of danger was passed. The French 
line had given back. Those who had pierced the hedge had 
fallen like brave men amid the ranks of their foemen. 
The division of Warwick had hurried up from the vineyards 
to fill the gaps of Salisbury's battle-line. Back rolled the 
shining tide, slowly at first, even as it had advanced, but 
quicker now as the bolder fell and the weaker shredded out 
and shuffled with ungainly speed for a place of safety. 
Again there was a rush from behind the hedge. Again 
there was a reaping of that strange crop of bearded arrows 
which grew so thick upon the ground, and again the 
wounded prisoners were seized and dragged in brutal haste 
to the rear. Then the line was restored, and the English, 
weary, panting and shaken, awaited the next attack. 

But a great good fortune had come to them so great 
that as they looked down the valley they could scarce credit 
their own senses. Behind the division of the Dauphin, 
which had pressed them so hard, stood a second division 



Nigel Found his Third Deed 329 

hardly less numerous, led by the Duke of Orleans. The 
fugitives from in front, blood-smeared and bedraggled, 
blinded with sweat and with fear, rushed amidst its ranks 
in their flight, and in a moment, without a blow being struck, 
had carried them off in their wild rout. This vast array, 
so solid and so martial, thawed suddenly away like a snow- 
wreath in the sun. It was gone, and in its place thousands 
of shining dots scattered over the whole plain as each man 
made his own way to the spot where he could find his horse 
and bear himself from the field. For a moment it seemed 
that the battle was won, and a thundershout of joy pealed 
up from the English line. 

But as the curtain of the Duke's division was drawn away 
it was only to disclose stretching far behind it, and spanning 
the valley from side to side, the magnificent array of the 
French King, solid, unshaken, and preparing its ranks for 
the attack. Its numbers were as great as those of the Eng- 
lish army ; it was unscathed by all that was past, and it had 
a valiant monarch to lead it to the charge. With the slow 
deliberation of the man who means to do or to die, its 
leader marshaled its ranks for the supreme effort of the 
day. 

Meanwhile during that brief moment of exultation when 
the battle appeared to be won, a crowd of hot-headed young 
knights and squires swarmed and clamored round the 
Prince, beseeching that he would allow them to ride forth. 

" See this insolent fellow who bears three martlets upon 
a field gules ! " cried Sir Maurice Berkeley. " He stands 
betwixt the two armies as though he had no dread of us." 

" I pray you, sir, that I may ride out to him, since he 
seems ready to attempt some small deed," pleaded Nigel. 

" Nay, fair sirs, it is an evil thing that we should break 
our line, seeing that we still have much to do," said the 
Prince. " See ! he rides away, and so the matter is settled." 

" Nay, fair prince," said the young knight who had 
spoken first. " My gray horse, Lebryte, could run him 
down ere he could reach shelter. Never since I left Severn 
side have I seen steed so fleet as mine. Shall I not show 
you?" In an instant he had spurred the charger and was 
speeding across the plain. 



330 Sir Nigel 

The Frenchman, John de Helennes, a squire of Picardy, 
had waited with a burning heart, his soul sick at the flight 
of the division in which he had ridden. In the hope of 
doing some redeeming exploit, or of meeting his own death, 
he had loitered betwixt the armies, but no movement had 
come from the English lines. Now he had turned his horse's 
head to join the King's array, when the low drumming of 
hoofs sounded behind him, and he turned to find a horseman 
hard upon his heels. Each had drawn his sword, and the 
two armies paused to view the fight. In the first bout Sir 
Maurice Berkeley's lance was struck from his hand, and 
as he sprang down to recover it the Frenchman ran him 
through the thigh, dismounted from his horse, and received 
his surrender. As the unfortunate Englishman hobbled 
away at the side of his captor a roar of laughter burst from 
both armies at the spectacle. 

" By my ten finger-bones ! " cried Aylward, chuckling 
behind the remains of his bush, " he found more on his dis- 
taff that time than he knew how to spin. Who was the 
knight?" 

" By his arms," said old Wat, " he should either be a 
Berkeley of the West or a Popham of Kent." 

" I call to mind that I shot a match of six ends once with 
a Kentish woldsman " began the fat Bowyer. 

" Nay, nay, stint thy talk, Bartholomew ! " cried old Wat. 
" Here is poor Ned with his head cloven, and it would be 
more fitting if you were saying aves for his soul, instead 
of all this bobance and boasting. Now, now, Tom of 
Beverley?" 

" We have suffered sorely in this last bout, Wat. There 
are forty of our men upon their backs, and the Dean For- 
esters on the right are in worse case still." 

" Talking will not mend it, Tom, and if all but one were 
on their backs he must still hold his ground." 

Whilst the archers were chatting, the leaders of the army 
were in solemn conclave just behind them. Two divisions 
of the French had been repulsed, and yet there was many 
an anxious face as the older knights looked across the plain 
at the unbroken array of the French King moving slowly 
toward them. The line of the archers was much thinned 



Nigel Found his Third Deed 331 

and shredded. Many knights and squires had been disabled 
in the long and fierce combat at the hedge. Others, ex- 
hausted by want of food, had no strength left and were 
stretched panting upon the ground. Some were engaged 
in carrying the wounded to the rear and laying them un- 
der the shelter of the trees, whilst others were replacing 
their broken swords or lances from the weapons of the 
slain. The Captal de Buch, brave and experienced as he 
was, frowned darkly and whispered his misgivings to 
Chandos. 

But the Prince's courage flamed the higher as the shadow 
fell, while his dark eyes gleamed with a soldier's pride as 
he glanced round him at his weary comrades, and then at 
the dense masses of the King's battle which now, with a 
hundred trumpets blaring and a thousand pennons waving, 
rolled slowly over the plain. " Come what may, John, this 
has been a most noble meeting," said he. " They will not 
be ashamed of us in England. Take heart, my friends, for 
if we conquer we shall carry the glory ever with us; but 
if we be slain then we die most worshipfully and in high 
honor, as we have ever prayed that we might die, and we 
leave behind us our brothers and kinsmen who will assuredly 
avenge us. It is but one more effort, and all will be well. 
Warwick, Oxford, Salisbury, Suffolk, every man to the 
front ! My banner to the front also ! Your horses, fair sirs ! 
The archers are spent, and our own good lances must win 
the field this day. Advance, Walter, and may God and 
Saint George be with England ! " 

Sir Walter Woodland, riding a high black horse, took 
station by the Prince, with the royal banner resting in a 
socket by his saddle. From all sides the knights and squires 
crowded in upon it, until they formed a great squadron con- 
taining the survivors of the battalions of Warwick and 
Salisbury as well as those of the Prince. Four hundred 
men-at-arms who had been held in reserve were brought up 
and thickened the array, but even so Chandos' face was 
grave as he scanned it and then turned his eyes upon the 
masses of the Frenchmen. 

" I like it not, fair sir. The weight is overgreat," he 
whispered to the Prince. 



332 Sir Nigel 

" How would you order it, John ? Speak what is in your 
mind." 

" We should attempt something upon their flank whilst 
we hold them in front. How say you, Jean ? " He turned 
to the Captal de Buch, whose dark, resolute face reflected 
the same misgivings. 

" Indeed, John, I think as you do," said he. " The 
French King is a very valiant man, and so are those who 
are about him, and I know not how we may drive them back 
unless we can do as you advise. If you will give me only 
a hundred men I will attempt it." 

" Surely the task is mine, fair sir, since the thought has 
come from me," said Chandos. 

" Nay, John, I would keep you at my side. But you 
speak well, Jean, and you shall do even as you have said. 
Go ask the Earl of Oxford for a hundred men-at-arms and 
as many hobblers, that you may ride round the mound yon- 
der, and so fall upon them unseen. Let all that are left 
of the archers gather on each side, shoot away their arrows, 
and then fight as best they may. Wait till they are past yon- 
der thorn-bush and then, Walter, bear my banner straight 
against that of the King of France. Fair sirs, may God 
and the thought of your ladies hold high your hearts ! " 

The French monarch, seeing that his footmen had made 
no impression upon the English, and also that the hedge 
had been well-nigh leveled to the ground in the course of 
the combat, so that it no longer presented an obstacle, had 
ordered his followers to remount their horses, and it was 
as a solid mass of cavalry that the chivalry of France ad- 
vanced to their last supreme effort. The King was in the 
center of the front line, Geoffrey de Chargny with the golden 
oriflamme upon his right, and Eustace de Ribeaumont with 
the royal lilies upon the left. At his elbow was the Duke 
of Athens, High Constable of France, and round him were 
the nobles of the court, fiery and furious, yelling their war- 
cries as they waved their weapons over their heads. Six 
thousand gallant men of the bravest race in Europe, men 
whose very names are like blasts of a battle-trumpet Beau- 
jeus and Chatillons, Tancarvilles and Ventadours pressed 
hard behind the silver lilies. 



Nigel Found his Third Deed 333 

Slowly they moved at first, walking their horses that they 
might be the fresher for the shock. Then they broke into 
a trot which was quickening into a gallop when the remains 
of the hedge in front of them was beaten in an instant to 
the ground and the broad line of the steel-clad chivalry of 
England swept grandly forth to the final shock. With loose 
rein and busy spur the two lines of horsemen galloped at 
the top of their speed straight and hard for each other. An 
instant later they met with a thunder-crash which was heard 
by the burghers on the wall of Poitiers, seven good miles 
away. 

Under that frightful impact horses fell dead with broken 
necks, and many a rider, held in his saddle by the high 
pommel, fractured his thighs with the shock. Here and 
there a pair met breast to breast, the horses rearing straight 
upward and falling back upon their masters. But for the 
most part the line had opened in the gallop, and the cava- 
liers, flying through the gaps, buried themselves in the 
enemy's ranks. Then the flanks shredded out, and the thick 
press in the center loosened until there was space to swing 
a sword and to guide a steed. For ten acres there was one 
wild tumultuous swirl of tossing heads, of gleaming weap- 
ons which rose and fell, of upthrown hands, of tossing 
plumes and of lifted shields, whilst the din of a thousand 
war-cries and the clash-clash of metal upon metal rose and 
swelled like the roar and beat of an ocean surge upon a 
rock-bound coast. Backward and forward swayed the 
mighty throng, now down the valley and now up, as each 
side in turn put forth its strength for a fresh rally. Locked 
in one lorjg deadly grapple, great England and gallant 
France with iron hearts and souls of fire strove and strove 
for mastery. 

Sir Walter Woodland, riding hard upon his high black 
horse, had plunged into the swelter and headed for the blue 
and silver banner of King John. Close at his heels in a solid 
wedge rode the Prince, Chandos, Nigel, Lord Reginald Cob- 
ham, Audley with his four famous squires, and a score of the 
flower of the English and Gascon knighthood. Holding to- 
gether and bearing down opposition by a shower of blows and 
by the weight of their powerful horses, their progress was still 



334 Sir Nigel 

very slow, for ever fresh waves of French cavaliers surged 
up against them and broke in front only to close in again 
upon their rear. Sometimes they were swept backward by 
the rush, sometimes they gained a few paces, sometimes 
they could but keep their foothold, and yet from minute 
to minute that blue and silver flag which waved above the 
press grew ever a little closer. A dozen furious hard- 
breathing French knights had broken into their ranks, and 
clutched at Sir Walter Woodland's banner, but Chandos 
and Nigel guarded it on one side, Audley with his squires 
on the other, so that no man laid his hand upon it and lived. 

But now there was a distant crash and a roar of " Saint 
George for Guienne ! " from behind. The Captal de Buch 
had charged home. " Saint George for England ! " yelled 
the main attack, and ever the counter-cry came back to them 
from afar. The ranks opened in front of them. The French 
were giving way. A small knight with golden scroll-work 
upon his armor threw himself upon the Prince and was 
struck dead by his mace. It was the Duke of Athens, Con- 
stable of France, but none had time to note it, and the fight 
rolled on over his body. Looser still were the French ranks. 
Many were turning their horses, for that ominous roar from 
the rear had shaken their resolution. The little English 
wedge poured onward, the Prince, Chandos, Audley and 
Nigel ever in the van. 

A huge warrior in black, bearing a golden banner, ap- 
peared suddenly in a gap of the shredding ranks. He tossed 
his precious burden to a squire, who bore it away. Like 
a pack of hounds on the very haunch of a deer the English 
rushed yelling for the oriflamme. But the black warrior 
flung himself across their path. " Chargny ! Chargny a la 
recousse!" he roared with a voice of thunder. Sir Regi- 
nald Cobham dropped before his battle-ax, so did the Gascon 
de Clisson. Nigel was beaten down on to the crupper of 
his horse by a sweeping blow ; but at the same instant Chan- 
dos' quick blade passed through the Frenchman's camail 
and pierced his throat. So died Geoffrey de Chargny; but 
the oriflamme was saved. 

Dazed with the shock, Nigel still kept his saddle, and 
Pommers, his yellow hide mottled with blood, bore him on- 



Nigel Found his Third Deed 335 

ward with the others. The French horsemen were now in 
full flight; but one stern group of knights stood firm, like 
a rock in a rushing torrent, beating off all, whether friend 
or foe, who tried to break their ranks. The oriflamme had 
gone, and so had the blue and silver banner, but here were 
desperate men ready to fight to the death. In their ranks 
honor was to be reaped. The Prince and his following 
hurled themselves upon them, while the rest of the English 
horsemen swept onward to secure the fugitives and to win 
their ransoms. But the nobler spirits Audley, Chandos 
and the others would have thought it shame to gain money 
whilst there was work to be done or honor to be won. Furi- 
ous was the wild attack, desperate the prolonged defense. 
Men fell from their saddles for very exhaustion. 

Nigel, still at his place near Chandos' elbow, was hotly 
attacked by a short broad-shouldered warrior upon a stout 
white cob, but Pommers reared with pawing fore feet and 
dashed the smaller horse to the ground. The falling rider 
clutched Nigel's arm and tore him from the saddle, so that 
the two rolled upon the grass under the stamping hoofs, 
the English squire on the top, and his shortened sword glim- 
mered before the visor of the gasping, breathless French- 
man. 

" Je me rends! je me rends! " he panted. 

For a moment a vision of rich ransoms passed through 
Nigel's brain. That noble palfrey, that gold-flecked armor, 
meant fortune to the captor. Let others have it! There 
was work still to be done. How could he desert the Prince 
and his noble master for the sake of a private gain? Could 
he lead a prisoner to the rear when honor beckoned him to 
the van ? He staggered to his feet, seized Pommers by the 
mane, and swung himself into the saddle. 

An instant later he was by Chandos' side once more and 
they were bursting together through the last ranks of the gal- 
lant group who had fought so bravely to the end. Behind 
them was one long swath of the dead and the wounded. In 
front the whole wide plain was covered with the flying 
French and their pursuers. 

The Prince reined up his steed and opened his visor, 
whilst his followers crowded round him with waving 



336 Sir Nigel 

weapons and frenzied shouts of victory. " What now, 
John ! " cried the smiling Prince, wiping his streaming face 
with his ungaimtleted hand. " How fares it then ? " 

" I am little hurt, fair lord, save for a crushed hand and 
a spear-prick in the shoulder. But you, sir? I trust you 
have no scathe ? " 

" In truth, John, with you at one elbow and Lord Audley 
at the other, I know not how I could come to harm. But 
alas ! I fear that Sir James is sorely stricken." 

The gallant Lord Audley had dropped upon the ground 
and the blood oozed from every crevice of his battered ar- 
mor. His four brave Squires Button of Dutton, Delves 
of Doddington, Fowlhurst of Crewe and Hawkstone of 
Wainhill wounded and weary themselves, but with no 
thought save for their master, unlaced his helmet and bathed 
his pallid blood-stained face. 

He looked up at the Prince with burning eyes. " I thank 
you, sir, for deigning to consider so poor a knight as my- 
self," said he in a feeble voice. 

The Prince dismounted and bent over him. " I am bound 
to honor you very much, James," said he, " for by your valor 
this day you have won glory and renown above us all, and 
your prowess has proved you to be the bravest knight." 

" My Lord," murmured the wounded man, " you have 
a right to say what you please; but I wish it were as 
you say." 

" James," said the Prince, " from this time onward I make 
you a knight of my own household, and I settle upon you 
five hundred marks of yearly income from my own estates 
in England." 

" Sir," the knight answered, " God make me worthy of 
the good fortune you bestow upon me> Your knight I will 
ever be, and the money I will divide with your leave amongst 
these four squires who have brought me whatever glory I 
have won this day." So saying his head fell back, and he 
lay white and silent upon the grass. 

" Bring water ! " said the Prince. " Let the royal leech 
see to him ; for I had rather lose many men than the good 
Sir James. Ha, Chandos, what have we here ? " 

A knight lay across the path with his helmet beaten down 



Nigel Found his Third Deed 337 

upon his shoulders. On his surcoat and shield were the 
arms of a red griffin. 

" It is Robert de Duras the spy," said Chandos. 

" Well for him that he has met his end," said the angry 
Prince. " Put him on his shield, Hubert, and let four arch- 
ers bear him to the monastery. Lay him at the feet of the 
Cardinal and say that by this sign I greet him. Place my 
flag on yonder high bush, Walter, and let my tent be raised 
there, that my friends may know where to seek me." 

The flight and pursuit had thundered far away, and the 
field was deserted save for the numerous groups of weary 
horsemen who were making their way back, driving their 
prisoners before them. The archers were scattered over 
the whole plain, rifling the saddle-bags and gathering the 
armor of those who had fallen, or searching for their own 
scattered arrows. 

Suddenly, however, as the Prince was turning toward the 
bush which he had chosen for his headquarters, there broke 
out from behind him an extraordinary uproar and a group 
of knights and squires came pouring toward him, all argu- 
ing, swearing and abusing each other in French and Eng- 
lish at the tops of their voices. In the midst of them limped 
a stout little man in gold-spangled armor, who appeared 
to be the object of the contention, for one would drag him 
one way and one another, as though they would pull him 
limb from limb. " Nay, fair sirs, gently, gently, I pray 
you ! " he pleaded. " There is enough for all, and no need 
to treat me so rudely." But ever the hubbub broke out 
again, and swords gleamed as the angry disputants glared 
furiously at each other. The Prince's eyes fell upon the 
small prisoner, and he staggered back with a gasp of aston- 
ishment. 

" King John ! " he cried. 

A shout of joy rose from the warriors around him. The 
King of France! The King of France a prisoner!" they 
cried in an ecstasy. 

" Nay, nay, fair sirs, let him not hear that we rejoice ! 
Let no word bring pain to his soul ! " Running forward 
the Prince clasped the French King t>y the two hands. 

" Most welcome, sire ! " he cried. " Indeed it is good for 



338 Sir Nigel 

us that so gallant a knight should stay with us for some 
short time, since the chance of war has so ordered it. Wine 
there ! Bring wine for the King ! " 

But John was flushed and angry. His helmet had been 
roughly torn off, and blood was smeared upon his cheek. 
His noisy captors stood around him in a circle, eying him 
hungrily like dogs who have been beaten from their quarry. 
There were Gascons and English, knights, squires and ar- 
chers, all pushing and straining. 

" I pray you, fair Prince, to get rid of these rude fellows," 
said King John, " for indeed they have plagued me sorely. 
By Saint Denis ! my arm has been well-nigh pulled from its 
socket." 

" What wish you then ? " asked the Prince, turning 
angrily upon the noisy swarm of his followers. 

" We took him, fair lord. He is ours ! " cried a score of 
voices. They closed in, all yelping together like a pack of 
wolves. " It was I, fair lord ! " " Nay, it was I ! " " You 
lie, you rascal, it was I ! " Again their fierce eyes glared 
and their blood-stained hands sought the hilts of their 
weapons. 

" Nay, this must be settled here and now ! " said the 
Prince. " I crave your patience, fair and honored sir, for 
a few brief minutes, since indeed much ill-will may spring 
from this if it be not set at rest. W T ho is this tall knight 
who can scarce keep his hands from the King's shoulder? " 

" It is Denis de Morbecque, my lord, a knight of St. 
Omer, who is in our service, being an outlaw from France." 

" I call him to mind. How then, Sir Denis? What say 
you in this matter ? " 

" He gave himself to me, fair lord. He had fallen in 
the press, and I came upon him and seized him. I told 
him that I was a knight from Artois, and he gave me his 
glove. See here, I bear it in my hand." 

" It is true, fair lord ! It is true ! " cried a dozen French 
voices. 

" Nay, sir, judge not too soon ! " shouted an English 
squire, pushing his way to the front. <l It was I who had 
him at my mercy, and he is my prisoner, for he spoke to 
this man only because he could tell by his tongue that he 



Nigel Found his Third Deed 339 

was his own countryman. I took him, and here are a score 
to prove it." 

" It is true, fair lord. We saw it and it was even so," 
cried a chorus of Englishmen. 

At all times there was growling and snapping betwixt 
the English and their allies of France. The Prince saw 
how easily this might set a light to such a flame as could 
not readily be quenched. It must be stamped out now ere 
it had time to mount. 

" Fair and honored lord," he said to the King, " again 
I pray you for a moment of patience. It is your word and 
only yours which can tell us what is just and right. To 
whom were you graciously pleased to commit your royal 
person ? " 

King John looked up from the flagon which had been 
brought to him and wiped his lips with the dawnings of a 
smile upon his ruddy face. 

" It was not this Englishman," he said, and a cheer burst 
from the Gascons, " nor was it this bastard Frenchman," 
he added. " To neither of them did I surrender." 

There was a hush of surprise. 

"To whom then, sir?" asked the Prince. 

The King looked slowly round. " There was a devil of 
a yellow horse," said he. " My poor palfrey went over like 
a skittle-pin before a ball. Of the rider I know nothing save 
that he bore red roses on a silver shield. Ah! by Saint 
Denis, there is the man himself, and there his thrice- 
accursed horse ! " 

His head swimming, and moving as if in a dream, Nigel 
found himself the center of the circle of armed and angry 
men. 

The Prince laid his hand upon his shoulder. " It is the 
little cock of Tilford Bridge," said he. " On my father's 
soul, I have ever said that you would win your way. Did 
you receive the King's surrender ? " 

" Nay, fair lord, I did not receive it." 

" Did you hear him give it ? " 

" I heard, sir, but I did not know that it was the King. 
My master Lord Chandos had gone on, and I followed 
after," 



34 Sir Nigel 

" And left him lying. Then the surrender was not com- 
plete, and by the laws of war the ransom goes to Denis de 
Morbecque, if his story be true." 

" It is true," said the King. " He was the second." 

" Then the ransom is yours, Denis. * But for my part 
I swear by my father's soul that I had rather have the honor 
this Squire has gathered than all the richest ransoms of 
France." 

At these words spoken before that circle of noble warriors 
Nigel's heart gave one great throb, and he dropped upon 
his knee before the Prince. " Fair lord, how can I thank 
you ? " he murmured. " These words at least are more than 
any ransom." 

" Rise up ! " said the smiling Prince, and he smote with 
his sword upon his shoulder. " England has lost a brave 
Squire, and has gained a gallant knight. Nay, linger not, 
I pray ! Rise up, Sir Nigel ! " 



XXVII 

HOW THE THIRD MESSENGER CAME TO COSFORD 

TWO months have passed, and the long slopes of 
Hindhead are russet with the faded ferns the 
fuzzy brown pelt which wraps the chilling earth. 
With whoop and scream the wild November wind sweeps 
over the great rolling downs, tossing the branches of the 
Cosford beeches, and rattling at the rude latticed windows. 
The stout old knight of Duplin, grown even a little stouter, 
with whiter beard to fringe an ever redder face, sits as of 
yore at the head of his own board. A well-heaped platter 
flanked by a foaming tankard stands before him. At his 
right sits the Lady Mary, her dark, plain, queenly face 
marked deep with those years of weary waiting, but bear- 
ing the gentle grace and dignity which only sorrow and re- 
straint can give. On his left is Mathew, the old priest. 
Long ago the golden-haired beauty had passed from Cos- 
ford to Fernhurst, where the young and beautiful Lady 
Edith Brocas is the belle of all Sussex, a sunbeam of smiles 
and merriment, save perhaps when her thoughts for an in- 
stant fly back to that dread night when she was plucked 
from under the very talons of the foul hawk of Shalford. 

The old knight looked up as a fresh gust of wind with 
a dash of rain beat against the window behind him. " By 
Saint Hubert, it is a wild night ! " said he. " I had hoped 
to-morrow to have a flight at a heron of the pool or a 
mallard in the brook. How fares it with little Katherine 
the peregrine, Mary ? " 

" I have joined the wing, father, and I have imped the 
feathers; but I fear it will be Christmas ere she can fly 
again." 

" This is a hard saying," said Sir John ; " for indeed I 
have seen no bolder better bird. Her wing was broken by 

34i 



Sir Nigel 



a heron's beak last Sabbath sennight, holy father, and Mary 
has the mending of it." 

" I trust, my son, that you had heard mass ere you turned 
to worldly pleasure upon God's holy day," Father Mathew 
answered. 

" Tut, tut ! " said the old knight, laughing. " Shall I 
make confession at the head of my own table ? I can wor- 
ship the good God amongst his own works, the woods and 
the fields, better than in yon pile of stone and wood. But 
I call to mind a charm for a wounded hawk which was 
taught me by the fowler of Gaston de Foix. How did it 
run ? ' The lion of the Tribe of Judah, the root of David, 
has conquered/ Yes, those were the words to be said three 
times as you walk round the perch where the bird is mewed." 

The old priest shook his head. " Nay, these charms are 
tricks of the Devil," said he. " Holy Church lends them 
no countenance, for they are neither good nor fair. But 
how is it now with your tapestry, Lady Mary ? When last 
I was beneath this roof you had half done in five fair colors 
the story of Theseus and Ariadne." 

" It is half done still, holy father." 

" How is this, my daughter ? Have you then so many 
calls?" 

" Nay, holy father, her thoughts are otherwhere," Sir 
John answered. " She will sit an hour at a time, the needle 
in her hand and her soul a hundred leagues from Cosford 
House. Ever since the Prince's battle - " 

" Good father, I beg you - " 

" Nay, Mary, none can hear me, save your own confessor, 
Father Mathew. Ever since the Prince's battle, I say, when 
we heard that young Nigel had won such honor she is brain- 
wode, and sits ever well, even as you see her now." 

An intent look had come into Mary's eyes ; her gaze was 
fixed upon the dark rain-splashed window. It was a face 
carved from ivory, white-lipped and rigid, on which the 
old priest looked. 

" What is it, my daughter ? What do you see ? " 

" I see nothing, father." 

" What is it then that disturbs you? " 

" I hear, father." 



The Third Messenger to Cosford 343 

"What do you hear?" 

" There are horsemen on the road." 

The old knight laughed. "So it goes on, father. What 
day is there that a hundred horsemen do not pass our gate, 
and yet every clink of hoofs sets her poor heart a-trembling. 
So strong and steadfast she has ever been, my Mary, and 
now no sound too slight to shake her to the soul! Nay, 
daughter, nay, I pray you ! " 

She had half-risen from her chair, her hands clenched 
and her dark, startled eyes still fixed upon the window. 
" I hear them, father ! I hear them amid the wind and the 
rain ! Yes, yes, they are turning they have turned ! My 
God, they are at our very door ! " 

" By Saint Hubert, the girl is right ! " cried old Sir John, 
beating his fist upon the board. " Ho, varlets, out with you 
to the yard ! Set the mulled wine on the blaze once more ! 
There are travelers at the gate, and it is no night to keep 
a dog waiting at our door. Hurry, Hannekki! Hurry, I 
say, or I will haste you with my cudgel ! " 

Plainly to the ears of all men could be heard the stamping 
of the horses. Mary had stood up, quivering in every limb. 
An eager step at the threshold, the door was flung wide, and 
there in the opening stood Nigel, the rain gleaming upon his 
smiling face, his cheeks flashed with the beating of the wind, 
his blue eyes shining with tenderness and love. Something 
held her by the throat, the light of the torches danced up 
and down; but her strong spirit rose at the thought that 
others should see that inner holy of holies of her soul. There 
is a heroism of women to which no valor of man can attain. 
Her eyes only carried him her message as she held out her 
hand. 

"Welcome, Nigel!" said she. 

He stooped and kissed it. 

" Saint Catharine has brought me home," said he. 

A merry supper it was at Cosford Manor that night, with 
Nigel at the head betwixt the jovial old knight and the Lady 
Mary, whilst at the farther end Samkin Aylward, wedged 
between two servant maids, kept his neighbors in alternate 
laughter and terror as he told his tales of the French Wars. 
Nigel had to turn his doeskin heels and show his little golden 



344 Sir Nigel 

spurs. As he spoke of what was passed Sir John clapped 
him on the shoulder, while Mary took his strong right hand 
in hers, and the good old priest smiling blessed them both. 
Nigel had drawn a little golden ring from his pocket, and it 
twinkled in the torchlight. 

" Did you say that you must go on your way to-morrow, 
father? " he asked the priest. 

" Indeed, fair son, the matter presses." 

" But you may bide the morning? " 

" It will suffice if I start at noon." 

" Much may be done in a morning." He looked at Mary, 
who blushed and smiled. " By Saint Paul ! I have waited 
long enough." 

" Good, good ! " chuckled the old knight, with wheezy 
laughter. " Even so I wooed your mother, Mary. Wooers 
were brisk in the olden time. To-morrow is Tuesday, and 
Tuesday is ever a lucky day. Alas! that the good Dame 
Ermyntrude is no longer with us to see it done ! The old 
hound must run us down, Nigel, and I hear its bay upon 
my own heels ; but my heart will rejoice that before the end 
I may call you son. Give me your hand, Mary, and yours, 
Nigel. Now, take an old man's blessing, and may God 
keep and guard you both, and give you your desert, for I 
believe on my soul that in all this broad land there dwells 
no nobler man nor any woman more fitted to be his mate ! " 

There let us leave them, their hearts full of gentle joy, 
the golden future of hope and promise stretching out before 
their youthful eyes. Alas for those green spring dreamings ! 
How often do they fade and wither until they fall and rot, 
a dreary sight, by the wayside of life ! But here, by God's 
blessing, it was not so, for they burgeoned and they grew, 
ever fairer and more noble, until the whole wide world might 
marvel at the beauty of it. 

It has been told elsewhere how as the years passed Nigel's 
name rose higher in honor; but still Mary's would keep 
pace with it, each helping and sustaining the other upon an 
ever higher path. In many lands did Nigel carve his fame, 
and ever as he returned spent and weary from his work he 
drank fresh strength and fire and craving for honor from 



The Third Messenger to Cosford 345 

her who glorified his home. At Twynham Castle they 
dwelled for many years, beloved and honored by all. Then 
in the fullness of time they came back to the Tilford Manor- 
house and spent their happy, healthy age amid those heather 
downs where Nigel had passed his first lusty youth, ere ever 
he turned his face to the wars. Thither also came Aylward 
when he had left the " Pied Merlin " where for many a year 
he sold ale to the men of the forest. 

But the years pass; the old wheel turns and ever the 
thread runs out. The wise and the good, the noble and the 
brave, they come from the darkness, and into the darkness 
they go, whence, whither and why, who may say? Here 
is the slope of Hindhead. The fern still glows russet in 
November, the heather still burns red in July; but where 
now is the Manor of Cosford? Where is the old house 
of Tilford? Where, but for a few scattered gray stones, is 
the mighty pile of Waverley ? And yet even gnawing Time' 
has not eaten all things away. Walk with me toward Guild- 
ford, reader, upon the busy highway. Here, where the high 
green mound rises before us, mark yonder roofless shrine 
which still stands four-square to the winds. It is St. Cath- 
arine's, where Nigel and Mary plighted their faith. Below 
lies the winding river, and over yonder you still see the dark 
Chantry woods which mount up to the bare summit, on 
which, roofed and whole, stands that Chapel of the Martyr 
where the comrades beat off the archers of the crooked Lord 
of Shalford. Down yonder on the flanks of the long chalk 
hills one traces the road by which they made theif journey 
to the wars. And now turn hither to the north, down this 
sunken winding path! It is all unchanged since Nigel's 
day. Here is the Church of Compton. Pass under the 
aged and crumbling arch. Before the steps of that ancient 
altar, unrecorded and unbrassed, lies the dust of Nigel and 
of Mary. Near them is that of Maude their daughter, and 
of Alleyne Edricson, whose spouse she was; their children 
and children's children are lying by their side. Here too, 
near the old yew in the churchyard, is the little mound which 
marks where Samkin Aylward went back to that good soil 
from which he sprang. 

So lie the dead leaves ; but they and such as they nourish 



346 Sir Nigel 

forever that great old trunk of England, which still sheds 
forth another crop and another, each as strong and as fair 
as the last. The body may lie in moldering chancel, or in 
crumbling vault, but the rumor of noble lives, the record 
of valor and truth, can never die, but lives on in the soul of 
the people. Our own work lies ready to our hands ; and yet 
our strength may be the greater and our faith the firmer 
if we spare an hour from present toils to look back upon 
the women who were gentle and strong, or the men who 
loved honor more than life, on this green sta^e of England 
where for a few short years we play our little part. 



THE END 



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